Friday, 5 October 2012

Can Formula One Piste Save Patra?

Patra, Greece's main western port, has in recent years gained notoriety as an exit point for illegal migrants smuggling themselves to northern Europe. A former mayor of the town now wants to turn it into a gateway for northern Europeans to come to Greece; and he wants a specific kind of northern European: Formula One racing teams.

Evangelos Floratos has already bought 300 acres of mountain plateau 21 km south of Patra, near the sleepy village of Halandritsa. The land is covered with shrubs and serves as a grazing ground for local sheep and goats, but Floratos says he's already raised 25 million euro from some four hundred local investors. That still left them far from any ground-breaking ceremony - the total estimated cost of the project is 94.6 million euro.

Last week, however, the project took a significant step forward. Deputy Finance Minister Notis Mitaras agreed to supply 29 million euro in government subsidy money, leaving the consortium in a stronger position to borrow the rest.

Yet not everyone is convinced that a Formula One racetrack would lift the city from its doldrums. Unemployment is high, city revenues have fallen and some locals say the project would not significantly contribute towards solving those problems.

See the story on Al Jazeera.

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