Malaysian GP to hold minute's silence for MH370

27 Mar 2014 09:46

Malaysian Grand Prix organisers will hold a minute's silence for the MH370 plane disaster which has cast a pall over the race and cut ticket sales in half, a senior official said Thursday.

Teams and spectators will fall quiet just before Sunday's Formula One race to honour the 239 people who were on board the Malaysia Airlines jet when it disappeared on March 8 en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.

"There will be a tribute planned on Sunday, there will be a minute's silence before the race starts," Dato Razlan Razali, CEO of the Sepang circuit, told AFP.

"The Formula One fraternity recognises and sympathises with what we're all going through," he added.

Malaysia's biggest annual sporting event has scaled back its usual celebrations, calling off a concert by Christina Aguilera and Rain and toning down its advertising as the nation mourns.

International teams are still searching for wreckage from the plane, which is believed to have crashed in the Indian Ocean.

On Sunday, Formula One teams and drivers are expected to pay tribute with messages on their car livery and helmets, while fans will be able to write messages on a condolence wall.

Razali said rumours had been circulating in Malaysia that the race had been cancelled, prompting organisers to put out a statement confirming it will go ahead.

"One thing about sport is it unites people regardless of the state of emotions. I think sports is a great platform to unite everybody," he said.

"There's no reason for us to postpone because Formula One is still a sport so we use the fans' loyalty and emotions to bring everybody together and unite and stay strong."

However, Razali raised the prospect of swathes of empty seats when he said ticket sales were down by about a half compared to previous years.

On race day in 2013, 84,000 spectators attended the 120,000-capacity Sepang circuit, Razali said. Unless sales pick up, it could be only a third full this year with 42,000 fans.

"At the moment it's not so good. Usually 30-40 percent of our total ticket sales are in the last week and right now everything is half, compared to historical figures," Razali said.

He added that staff at the circuit, about an hour's drive from the capital, were also suffering from the tragedy.

"We are quite affected by it. We are in no mood but we do have a responsibility to do our job," he said.

"We remind ourselves that this is a huge international event, regardless of our state of mourning. The world will be on us to see how fragile or how strong (we are). So we have a huge responsibility to put on a good show."

Razali and his workers also had to deal with grief in 2011, when Italian MotoGP rider Marco Simoncelli crashed and died at the circuit. But he said the plane accident was on a national scale.

"When it happens to your national airline, it happens to your country and your fellow countrymen, you can't help feeling sad about it," he said.

"So we are surviving, we're doing our job. In some ways we also can't wait for this event to pass and get it over and done with."