Comment by Wong Chun Wai
PRIME Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi has a directive for his Cabinet members and top government officials – make sure you entertain the guests at this weekend’s Formula One events.
He does not want the ministers to wait to be entertained, the way some of them expect due to their high positions. Abdullah's plan is simple – he expects them to use the F1 as a marketing tool for Malaysia.
Over the next few days, the world will be watching Malaysia as the F1 race here is one of sports' biggest events. Extra financial and human resources have been allocated for this year’s race, as Abdullah wants to use it as leverage.
The F1 is no longer just another race, as other host countries have used it to network, stage forums and promote tourism.
For example, in Melbourne recently, an international motor show was held together with the race. In Bahrain, the royal family put protocol aside and surprised guests by walking to every table at a gala dinner to greet them.
For the first time in the seven years of hosting the F1, a series of events, inter-related in many ways, have been strung together in Kuala Lumpur.
Kicking off tomorrow is a gala dinner for over 680 people at the Mandarin Oriental to be attended by the King and Queen, the Prime Minister and his Cabinet. The others will be the who’s who in Malaysia.
With Sepang, dubbed the “hottest F1 race”, the organisers of the dinner have creatively taken a “cool” theme for a pre-race major event.
The hotel ballroom will literally be turned into a snow house, with a full white colour setting, and the glittering event is expected to be attended by the hottest names in entertainment, politics and media.
Besides F1 drivers like world champion Michael Schumacher, the celebrities who have confirmed their attendance are Baywatch actress Carmen Electra, international stars Jackie Chan, Bai Ling and Datuk Michelle Yeoh, Hong Kong artiste Nicholas Tse, former Kiss singer Gene Simmons, Black Eyed Peas, Backstreet Boys and Boyz II Men.
Singing at the dinner would be jazz singer Diana Krall, and Malaysian Idol Jackie Victor.
Said All Sports Services Sdn Bhd director Hafez Mohamed, who travelled to several F1 host countries recently: “These are big names and they attract the media wherever they go. So Malaysia will be on the world map.”
ESPN, for example, will be broadcasting the gala dinner with local stations, TV3 and Channel 8 while CNN presenter Lorraine Han is the emcee for the dinner.
He said the idea to stage the gala dinner – newcomer Shanghai also did the same – was mooted by Sepang International Circuit chairman Datuk Mokhzani Mahathir, and was supported by the Tourism Ministry.
Said Hafez: “Next year, we may have an international fund manager conference in KL at the same time.”
The party continues on Friday, where the Forces of Nature concert would be held at the Stadium Putra. Besides Black Eyed Peas, Backstreet Boys and Boyz II Men, soul singer Lauryn Hill and top local singers such as Sheila Majid and Anuar Zain will also be performing.
As Malaysians set to go stargazing, one popular story going around is that American Idol judge Paula Abdul is coming. So is media tycoon Rupert Murdoch, but no one is confirming this talk.
The Forces of Nature Foundation, headed by roving diplomat Tan Sri Razali Ismail, aims to help victims of natural disasters and its first task includes helping the victims of the recent tsunami.
Helping to put this gigantic task together without any fanfare are the children of Abdullah – Nori and Kamaluddin. Then, there are some young corporate figures, who have used their networking in Los Angeles to bring in these big names for a good cause.
Abdullah now wears an orange rubber wristband in support of the Force of Nature concert for Tsunami Aid and has even directed his Cabinet members to wear the wristbands at the show.
But that’s not all. The Star’s KL Fashion Week will be held from May 3 to 8. To promote KL as a vibrant and cosmopolitan city, models taking part in the fashion event will move around KL tomorrow in special mobile catwalks, in what is dubbed as “Fashion On The Move”.
To wrap up the party with a blast, Astro is holding a free concert on Sunday at the F1 circuit, immediately after the race.
Blasting the evening away will be rock group Status Quo and Thai diva Tata Young, where thousands of people are expected to attend.
It’s going to be really hot in Kuala Lumpur this weekend and we are not just talking about the Sepang racetrack.