More than 1,000 protesters have disrupted the Everest horse race illumination by painting over the light show with torches and lamps.
- The barrier draw numbers were obscured as thousands of protesters disrupted the lights with torches and lamps
- The Heritage Council sent a damning letter to the NSW Premier
- 2GB radio presenter Alan Jones dismissed the protests as “childish stuff”
When the Opera House sails were finally illuminated after days of national backlash, the crowds of protesters began booing and sending up helium balloons.
They then shone bright lights onto the barrier draw results and from across the other side of Circular Quay, the numbers of the race horses displayed on the heritage building were obscured.
In the early evening, Sydneysiders were seen dancing and chanting profanities directed at 2GB broadcaster Alan Jones, whose on-air interview last week sparked the furore.
Protester Joshua Richardson, 19, said he had no problem with the Opera House being lit up in the “right context” but said this illumination was “horrible”.
“The Wallabies or Vivid, they aren’t advertising gambling, which is detrimental to so many families,” Richardson said.
“It’s completely wrong to have one of our national landmarks used as a billboard. It’s nationally embarrassing.”
The original plan by Racing NSW was to hold a live barrier draw and project the results onto the Opera House facade, alongside the jockeys’ colours and barrier results alongside The Everest logo.
However, in a dramatic turn today, Racing NSW suspended all betting for the $13 million race from noon and announced the barrier draw would be conducted in confidence.
Racing NSW stewards cited “perceived integrity risk” and “security risks” for the change.
Protesters used torches and lamps to shine over the Everest horse racing advertisement. (Supplied: Sebastian Reategui)
Fallout reaches boiling point
Since the NSW Government directed the Opera House to allow the promotional material to be projected, the backlash over the decision has reached a boiling point.
An online petition against the event, now signed by over 290,000 people, was delivered to State Parliament on Tuesday morning but the petition’s organiser, Mike Woodcock, said Premier Gladys Berejiklian did not accept it.
This afternoon the Heritage Council of New South Wales delivered a damning letter directly to the Premier expressing its “extreme disappointment” with her decision to allow the advertising to go ahead.
In the letter, Heritage Council chair Stephen Davies said the decision goes against existing management policy and may impact the UNESCO expectation for World Heritage sites.
“It is the view of the Heritage Council that the use of the Opera House for the commercial advertising of this event is completely unsatisfactory and is an inappropriate use of this significant heritage place that is valued by many around the world,” he said.
In another letter sent to Greens MP David Shoebridge, Mr Davies said he was unable to issue a Stop Work Order because the planned projections by Racing NSW did not meet the legal definition of “harm” as there was no physical damage being done to the site.
State and federal politicians have weighed in on the stoush, including Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who believed the promotion of the event was a “no-brainer”.
Ruth Pigott is protesting against the Everest light promotion on the Opera House, which Alan Jones supported. (ABC News: Nick Dole)
Shock jock dismisses protest as ‘childish stuff’
On his Sky News program, shortly after the sails were illuminated, Alan Jones labelled the light-based protest as “childish stuff” from a “latte-sipping mob”.
On the show he dismissed claims his attack against Opera House chief Louise Herron was motivated by his business connections to horses competing in The Everest and downplayed his perceived influence within the NSW Government.
He also said he was not a bully and refuted accusations of misogyny.
The radio presenter, who had come under intense scrutiny after a heated on-air discussion with Ms Herron last week, made an apology on his show this morning.
On Friday, Mr Jones had called for Ms Herron’s sacking after she resisted The Everest’s initial proposal, saying the building was not a “billboard”.
“I used some words in these programs about the Everest, and the Opera House, and Louise, which in hindsight I now most regret hearing, having heard the impact they’ve clearly had on some people,” Mr Jones said on air.
The radio presenter said he was bombarded with “anonymous phone calls… every minute” after The Chaser projected his personal mobile phone number onto the sails of the Opera House and on the walls of NSW Parliament House the previous night.