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Fans baulk at cost of F1 weekend
Erik Kirschbaum | May 31, 2004 11:59 IST
Marianna Trosz's jaw dropped. She rubbed her eyes and looked at the price again. She swallowed hard and reluctantly slid her last 200 euros ($245.2) under the glass window for a ticket for Sunday's European Grand Prix.
"That's an awful lot of money for a ticket," said Trosz, a 22-year-old student and part-time waitress who wasn't going to eat for the rest of the day.
"That was a month's pay right there. This better be worth it."
More and more German Formula One fans are finding it isn't worth it anymore.
Despite their devotion to six times world champion Michael Schumacher, who grew up nearby, many find the prices, which can exceed 400 euros, are simply over the top.
"It's just outrageous," said Joachim Loch, 35, trying to contain his anger after spending 500 euros for three tickets for his family. "These people have lost all touch with reality."
The Nuerburgring gold mine that spread wealth and rising revenues to Germany's poor rural Eifel region is suffering from an erosion of interest again this year after a 30-percent drop in attendances last year.
Local businesses -- ranging from hotels to pubs, restaurants and even sausage vendors -- are feeling the squeeze.
"Sales are down 60 percent this year," said Rosemarie Schau, 55. Despite the sunny weather, she was finding it hard to sell ice cream bars that, at 2.50 euros, were about twice their normal price.
"Who can afford ice cream after paying so much for tickets?" she added, noting that a sweets salesman next door folded his tent and went home because sales were down 80 percent.
Organisers blamed Germany's weak economy and high level of unemployment.
Nuerburgring GmbH officials reacted to weak advance ticket sales by cutting some prices after years of hefty increases and introducing some gimmicks -- such as a family day for Friday's practice sessions that let in everyone 14 and under for free.
Attendance for the three days fell to 216,000 from 239,000 last year and 353,000 in 2002. Sunday's attendance was 106,000, down from 123,000 last year and 140,000 in 2002. Capacity was cut from 151,000 to 135,000 but there were still empty seats.
"There's nothing happening here anymore," said one muscular bodyguard outside a fenced-off luxury hotel next to the circuit where some Formula One drivers stay.
"Crowds used to besiege us trying to get in. Hardly anyone can afford to come anymore."
He said many fans bought cheap tickets for Saturday's qualifying and planned to watch the race on television across the street in motor homes.
The European Grand Prix is still Germany's biggest sporting event. Some 70 million euros are pumped into the local economy during the Formula One weekend.
Willy Bruells, 54, a car salesman, said the 230 euros his weekend ticket cost was double the cost five years ago.
Three friends -- two mechanics and a salesman -- who had come with him for years stayed home this year.
"It got too expensive for them. My breaking point isn't far away either."
Harald Huerle, 38, said he used to come with 20 friends. This year there are only two left.
"It's a shame," said the technician from Limburg. "It was always a blast. No one expects a free ticket. But it should be affordable."
Formula One: The Complete Coverage