The Great Race 2008, I'm sorry to say, may turn out to be the Great Fiasco of 2008. But don't blame the organizers. Bill Ewing, CEO of Great Race Sports, has informed participants that the Great Race 2008: New York to Paris has been postponed as "approval to travel through China has been recalled and the permits have been placed on hold." Mr. Ewing stated that "given the high level of enthusiasm and support, Great Race Sports owners, executives and participants remain dedicated to honoring the history of this illustrious race. Great Race Sports is hard at work exploring all options to run this event in honor of the 100th anniversary."
Politics is behind the cancellation because of Tibet and Olympic torch demonstrations. The Chinese don't want anyone spoiling their party and apparently regard a tiny parade of hundred-year-old automobiles and their drivers as a potential threat. Say, what? Regardless of how they feel about the Tibetan repression I can't imagine Great Race participants as a threat to anyone except themselves as they nurse their Edwardian-era vehicles through a round-the-world journey. This is more than a schedule disruption, for the car owners, passengers and sponsors have expended a huge amount of time, cost and energy to be ready for the start in New York next month.
For example, the cancellation has severely impacted the 1907 Zust we featured a couple of weeks ago: The Blackstaff family of Ladysmith, BC that restored the car at considerable expense must now cancel months of preparation until further notice. And how about the Vancouver man that ordered two specially-built Bio-Fuel Range Rovers as support and demonstration vehicles? They recently arrived in Canada from the UK after a personal expenditure of close to $500,000.
I read somewhere that to expect a society thousands of years old to change its ways in a decade or two is unrealistic. So maybe there were better ways of showing support for the Tibetan monks than attempting to extinguish the Olympic torch; for example, why not simultaneously run a similar but slightly different torch? The following crowds could have made a statement without disrupting an historic sports event… and an historic motor race recreation. After all, the Dalaiwasn't scheduled to ride in any of the participating cars. Although that's an interesting thought.