Sydney Opera House Horse Racing Ad Incites Wrath

Elouise Spencer - 17 October 2018

Despite the 8–14 October being the inaugural Responsible Gambling Week in Australia, The Sydney Opera House triggered controversy after agreeing to air a giant ad for Everest, the upcoming Horse Racing event, on its famous sail-like roof.

Some felt that horseracing is too closely linked with betting in Australia, the Everest being one of the largest such events of the calendar. The races have purse prizes worth millions, and of course the amounts being wagered are astronomical too. The ad that was projected onto the Opera House roof showed the race’s logo and the trophy, along with the jockeys' colours and the horses’ barrier numbers. It was up for 20 minutes.

There was such outrage that people were booing and shining lights up onto the sails, trying just about anything to try and obscure the announcement.

 A Matter Of National Pride

The iconic structure is a world heritage site and has long been a source of pride to Australians. Regulations say that any projections being shown against it needed to be non-commercial, and for an exceptional purpose. And be shown only for a brief duration. So cited Louise Herron, Chief Executive Officer of the Opera House, when turning down the request, saying she would not have horse names and branding on the sails.

The projections had been planned for Harbour Bridge, but at the last minute the approval had not been given, and the Opera House was put forward as the alternate venue by the NSW government, who wanted to support the event, as it had for other events.

Pressure From The PM

But in the end, projected it was, and it seems Louise Herron was ‘encouraged’ to change her tune, amid some scandal and purported bullying in an interview on Monday morning with Radio Broadcaster Alan Jones. He denies he was too aggressive. Possibly some lines were crossed. Some say she was bullied, some say Alan was well within his rights to take such a hard line with her considering the fact that Wallabies events are frequently projected onto the iconic landmark.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison was also on Jones' show on Monday morning. His support for projecting the promotion onto the Opera House sails was evident.

Shortly after, the state government ordered Ms Herron to allow the ad to be projected.

A petition against the action was signed by the disgruntled, with signatures numbering 300, 000 and what repercussions there will be, if any now remain to be seen.


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