NGOs Rise Against Bulgaria's Already Troubled Formula 1 Project

Society | September 5, 2010, Sunday // 14:08|  views

The site of Kremikovtzi (northeast of Sofia) is better for a F1 track than Dobroslavtsi (northwest of Sofia), according to NGOs. Map from Google Maps

After an international scandal involving an Abu Dhabi company, the project for construction of a Formula 1 racetrack near Sofia has run into further trouble facing opposition from several NGOs.

This time, however, the criticism has targeted the location of the future circuit proposed by the government – the site of the former air base near the village of Dobroslavtsi – as well as the economic feasibility of the project.

Several NGOs - the "New Territorial Organization Plan" initiative, "Citizens for Sofia", GEO Group, Eco-Association Vrabnitsa-Nadezhda – gave a news conference Sunday insisting that the Dobroslavtsi airbase is not the best place to build a Formula 1 track.

The four NGOs have sent a letter to Bulgarian PM Boyko Borisov, several ministers, Sofia Mayor Yordanka Fandakova and even European Commission President Jose Barroso expressing concern that Bulgaria will have to pay FIA USD 30 M annually for hosting a Formula 1 grand prix.

They said they would support the Formula 1 track construction if the project was economically feasible but estimated that the racetrack must be used 240 days a year in order to generate profit.

In their letter to the institutions, the NGOs especially criticize the plans for the location of the future circuit. They claim that the plot near Dobroslavtsi lies in the open and will allow for the spreading of noise and pollution.

At the same time, the civic activists and environmentalists said they were certain that despite its environmental issues, the project will get a positive environmental assessment by the authorities because hardly any construction project has ever been stopped in Bulgaria on such grounds.

The NGOs believe that the plot of 320 hectares is way too large for the needs of the racetrack and much of the state land will squandered; they insist that any shopping malls and hotels that might be built near the track should be purely the work of private investors who should purchase the land for their projects on their own rather than receive it from the government.

The representatives of the civil society have put forth an alternative proposal – constructing a racetrack for Formula 1, Moto GP, Moto Extreme, and a park on the spot of the bankrupt steel giant Kremikovtzi in the northern suburbs of Sofia. They believe that the plot of 150 hectares there is much more suitable.

At the same time, the NGOs have suggested that the spot of the Dobroslavtsi air base should be used to construct an "Eastern European Student's Campus", a new national sports complex, and a new film center.

The NGOs have expressed their indignation over the fact that the Chief Architect of Sofia Petar Dikov is part of the initiative committee for the construction of the Formula 1 track, which allows him to propose plots for it; at the same time, in his official capacity he is involved with their approval.

The civic activists also demanded two extensions of the second line of the Sofia Metro; one of them would reach the site of Kremikovtzi where they suggest the Formula 1 track should be built.

Over the past week, the Bulgarian Economy Ministry got tangled into an international scandal as its press center reported incorrectly information about the potential financial support of the F1 project by the private consortium from Abu Dhabi, EABG.

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Tags: Dobroslavtsi, Formula 1, F1, track, NGOs, Economy Ministry, Petar Dikov, Kremikovtzi


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