Montreal Vows Fight to Keep GP

Montreal politicians and businesses vowed on Friday that the city would continue to host the Canadian Grand Prix, after organisers said it had been dropped from the 2004 calendar because of Canada's anti-tobacco legislation.

Montreal Vows Fight to Keep GP

Montreal politicians and businesses vowed on Friday that the city would continue to host the Canadian Grand Prix, after organisers said it had been dropped from the 2004 calendar because of Canada's anti-tobacco legislation.

Canadian Grand Prix chief executive Normand Legault told reporters on Thursday that the management company of Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone had sent him a letter saying Montreal would not be part of the 2004 calendar.

But on Friday, reports in the British media quoted Ecclestone as saying that he had not yet even considered next year's calendar.

Race organisers however, said they had not received anything that would reverse the content of the letter from Ecclestone's company.

"The Grand Prix of Canada has not received any notice setting aside the decision of Formula One Management concerning the inclusion of the event on the 2004 World Championship calendar," organisers said.

"If the intention of Formula One Management was to include the event on the calendar, it would signify as a matter of fact that Formula One agrees to run in Montreal while respecting the tobacco legislation of Canada and Quebec."

Legislation banning tobacco advertising, including logos on cars, will come into effect in Canada on October 1st. A spokeswoman for Canadian Health Minister Anne McLellan said there is no plan to delay enforcement of the law, first announced in 1997 but introduced a year later with a five-year "transition" period.

Montrealers were already gearing up for a fight to keep the race, which is one of the city's biggest tourist attractions and packs over 100,000 fans around the circuit.

"I think we have reason to be alarmed because we want to save an event which rains C$80 million ($58 million US) on the local economy", Charles Lapointe, head of Tourisme Montreal, told a news conference.

"We'll do whatever it takes to have the Grand Prix stay here in 2004," Cosmo Maciocia, a member of Montreal's executive committee, told Reuters. "But there's no plan at the moment, it took us totally by surprise."

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