Thursday, October 21, 1999

Auto race canceled
but potential remains

Bullet The issue:An auto race on Oahu billed as the world's richest has been canceled because of financial problems.
Bullet Our view: Hawaii should be considered for other major auto races.

ORGANIZERS of an auto race next month at Kalaeloa Airport with the world's richest purse had to cancel it after failing to meet financial obligations, but the potential for future auto races in Hawaii remains, perhaps on a lesser scale.

The inability of promoters to arrange a race on such a grand scale in only a few months' time should not reflect on Hawaii's suitability as a racing venue.

The long-established auto racing circuit's eagerness in trying to upstage the four-year-old Indy Racing League's legendary Indianapolis 500 may have led to cancelation of the Hawaiian Super Prix and its $10 million in prizes.

Championship Auto Racing Teams Inc., or CART, the sanctioning body of the dominant FedEx Championship Series, blamed the failure to secure a title sponsor or a lucrative television deal for the cancelation.

Some observers maintain that the race's organizers had underestimated the cost of staging it in Hawaii and overestimated its potential number of television viewers.

Forrest Bond, a Los Angeles-based racing expert, said Super Prix organizers assumed the Hawaii race would attract 1.8 million pay-per-view cable viewers, nearly triple the average TV audience for CART's 20 other races. Even if the race had drawn such a large audience, Bond added, an inadequate share of the proceeds would have gone to the Super Prix to pay for the prize money and other expenses.

The short period allotted for such a huge undertaking was an important factor in the effort's failure. Plans for auto racing's "super bowl" were announced in February, only nine months before the Nov. 11-13 event at the former Barbers Point air strip. A lengthier planning period might have produced the desired result, despite Bond's criticism.

The miscarriage of the Hawaiian Super Prix should not sour planners for either CART or the Indy Racing League about the idea of staging major auto races on Kalaeloa.

A grandstand that lies unassembled at the site should be put to use at some future date, but sufficient time must be allotted for planning.


Indonesian legislators’
surprising choices

Bullet The issue: The Indonesian legislature has chosen Abdurrahman Wahid, a Muslim leader, as president and Megawati Sukarnoputri as vice president.
Bullet Our view: Megawati's supporters, who rioted after her defeat for the presidency, may be mollified by her election as vice president.

THE election of a new president by Indonesia's legislature was supposed to end the turmoil that has enveloped the nation since the rioting that forced President Suharto's resignation last year. But the legislature's refusal yesterday to choose Megawati Sukarnoputri, the daughter of Suharto's predecessor, Sukarno, as president sparked more rioting.

Megawati's party led all groups in the parliamentary elections last June, but fell short of a majority. In the negotiating that preceded the vote, Megawati evidently did not make a serious effort to form the alliances she needed to win the presidency.

Instead, the victory in Indonesia's first-ever contested presidential vote went to Abdurrahman Wahid, a highly respected but ailing Muslim leader with a reputation as a moderate. Wahid, 59, is partly blind and has suffered a stroke. He needed help to cast his vote.

Wahid had the support of a coalition of mostly Muslim parties. In addition, Golkar, the former ruling party, supported Wahid after its own candidate, the unpopular B.J. Habibie, who succeeded Suharto last year, was forced to withdraw from the race. Also contributing to Megawati's defeat was some legislators' reluctance to choose a woman as president.

But that was not the sentiment in the streets of Jakarta and other cities, where Megawati was the popular favorite. Rioters protesting her rejection clashed with police.

Then today the legislators elected Megawati vice president, a move that may mollify her supporters and enable the new government to move forward.

Megawati became a symbol of the opposition to Suharto's repressive rule when he tried to freeze her out of leadership of her party, and led the party to the top position in the parliamentary elections. But she was inexperienced in the give and take of politics and a refusal to bargain may have cost her crucial votes in the presidential contest.

There is some doubt about the ability of the ailing Wahid to cope with Indonesia's political and economic crisis. Although he has been a factor in Indonesian politics for decades, what sort of policies he will adopt is unknown.

His party came a distant fourth in the parliamentary elections but he proved to be more skillful than Megawati in the negotiating that preceded the presidential vote. However, skill in the bargaining in the legislative arena does not necessarily translate into the ability to lead this troubled nation.

Wahid's sickly condition and poor showing in the parliamentary elections do not inspire confidence in his leadership. Megawati, too, is a question mark. However, if Wahid and Megawati can work together, they may yet make an effective -- if rather unusual -- team.

Published by Liberty Newspapers Limited Partnership

Rupert E. Phillips, CEO

John M. Flanagan, Editor & Publisher

David Shapiro, Managing Editor

Diane Yukihiro Chang, Senior Editor & Editorial Page Editor

Frank Bridgewater & Michael Rovner, Assistant Managing Editors

A.A. Smyser, Contributing Editor

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