Death threats over The Everest Opera House plan
DEATH threats and guerrilla protest plans have forced police to upgrade security around tonight's planned Opera House light show to promote The Everest.
A plan to project the colours and numbers of horses taking part in the world's richest race on turf, plus an image of The Everest trophy, onto the sails of the iconic building has been hijacked by bitter debate about the role the Opera House should play in promoting one of Sydney's biggest events, with culture warriors trying their best to paint the sports promotion as a commercial advertising or gambling deal.
"Some people have issued death threats and violence - we can have differences of opinion but I don't think it's necessary to resort to that type of thing," Racing NSW CEO Peter V'landys said last night. Everyone's entitled to protest but make sure you protest without violence.
"This is not a permanent display - it's six minutes."
Police were last night planning to boost numbers around the Opera House in response to threats by activists to disrupt the display.
Officials have been told there is some concern a Socialist Left protest scheduled for Newtown tomorrow could continue on to the Harbour.
Police are also monitoring a number of Facebook groups organising protesters armed with lights and torches to ruin the light show.
Politicians from both major parties called for calm, saying it made sense for Sydney to use its best assets to support the $13 million race, one of the biggest sport events on its calendar.
Labor frontbencher Anthony Albanese declared Melbourne promotes events "much better" than Sydney and that using the Opera House to draw attention to the city's events "sends a signal" to the world.
Mr Albanese led the charge of politicians backing the Opera House promotion, saying it had nothing to do with gambling.
"(It's) promoting tourism and promoting Sydney as a destination," he said.
Culture warriors continued to complain Opera House boss Louise Herron had been bullied and that broadcaster Alan Jones' intervention in a feisty interview last Friday pushed NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian into backing Racing NSW.
However Ms Herron had already agreed to a light show on the Opera House sails last week - before Mr Jones even interviewed her.
Mr Albanese told Sky News yesterday the debate was simply over the inclusion of the trophy.
"The Opera House and Louise Herron have no problem with the colours and the numbers," he said. "This is just over the trophy."
Mr Albanese said the Opera House had been used for light shows to promote a range of causes and sporting events including Ashes cricket tests, rugby union tests, World AIDS Day, World Diabetes Day and also a promotion for Korean electronics giant Samsung.
"What I have said as Shadow Tourism Minister is that it's reasonable that we promote major events in Sydney," he said.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison and State Labor leader Luke Foley have also both strongly backed The Everest initiative.
Mr Morrison said yesterday: "It's not as if they're painting it on there. I mean, it's some lights flashing up there for a brief moment of time. I just don't understand why we tie ourselves up in knots about these things."
But Labor frontbencher Tanya Plibersek sided with the protectionists who want to block the light display, labelling it simply "tacky".
"Ads on the Opera House: just tacky," she tweeted. "If this advertising is okay, what next."
Mr Foley called for a review of guidelines for what the Opera House sails should be used for. "We want sensible limits but I won't apologise for saying that The Everest is a major event for Sydney.
"Melbourne never fails to use major events like the Melbourne Cup to promote their city.''
TRAPEZE ARTIST THE SENTIMENTAL FAVOURITE
SYDNEY super sprinter Trapeze Artist will be the sentimental favourite, as well as the bookies' pick, in the $13 million TAB Everest to be held on Saturday.
The hopes of many will be riding on the horse, as owner Bert Vieira maintains a hospital bedside vigil for his wife Gai who was seriously injured when a police car struck her Mercedes nearly five weeks ago.
Mrs Vieira remains in a coma but her husband is hoping to be trackside for Trapeze Artist's bid to win the world's richest turf race at Royal Randwick.