Infuriated Sydneysiders surrounded Circular Quay in protest on Tuesday after the Sydney Opera House was forced to display an advertisement about The Everest horse race on its iconic sails.
The NSW State Government authorised The Everest to project an advertisement on the sails of the historic cultural icon, promoting the race. Opera House chief executive Louise Herron initially denied the government’s request and claimed it was disrespectful. The government, led by premier Gladys Berejiklian, overturned Herron’s ruling. Prime Minister Scott Morrison agreed with Berejiklian’s decision, calling the Opera House the “biggest billboard Sydney has”.
The decision has accumulated international attention from publications like CNN, BBC, Time, and the New York Times. The protests are also expected to gain the same attention, with protesters holding up signs saying “Sydney is not Las Vegas” and “sails not sales”. Jess Scully, a councillor for City of Sydney, addressed the crowd during the protests.
“The Opera House doesn’t belong to Gladys – it belongs to us,” Scully said to the crowd.
“People on all sides of politics need to understand the Opera House is bigger than a horse race. This house represents the best Australia can be and we are turning it into a billboard.”
The controversy has sparked reactions from some of Australia’s most outspoken critics. Radio announcer Alan Jones criticised people who opposed the advertisement in a heated segment on his radio show earlier this week. Jones interviewed Ms Herron, and called for her to be sacked following her attempts to prevent the ad from running. Jones later apologised for his harshness in the interview.
Renowned comedy group The Chaser have added fuel to the fire by projecting an ‘Advertise Here’ sign on the Opera House, with Jones’ phone number displayed in the ad. The Chaser were soon berated for their actions.
Conveniently, the advertisement was projected in the middle of Responsible Gambling Awareness Week, which runs from October 8 to 14. Protesters are also claiming that the ad promotes gambling. In Australia, addiction to gambling causes approximately 400 suicides a year.
If people weren’t a fan of Scomo and his government before, they definitely aren’t now. People certainly aren’t going to forgive him or Berejiklian for this move, with Berejiklian facing the brunt of the fury.