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The popular San Francisco Grand Prix event is in danger of being cancelled next year after it was revealed by San Francisco city officials that the race organisers received a permit for this year's event despite still owing almost $90,000 in police costs for the 2004 race.
City officials were at a loss to explain how race organisers San Francisco Cycling LLC managed to get a licence to run this year's event in the face of a local law that requires any company seeking a city permit to settle any fees owed before the permit is granted. The outstanding debt came to light on Monday when San Francisco Supervisor Chris Daly called for a hearing on the financial impact this year's race had on the city.
There had already been some controversy when the race was switched from its previous date on the second weekend of September to the previous Labor Day weekend. Many businesses in the city have complained about the apparent impact the road closures forced by the race had on their takings over that weekend, one of the busiest of the year.
San Francisco Board of Supervisors president Aaron Peskin suggested that he had been deceived by the race organisers into agreeing to a contract running to 2007 that waives some costs owed to the city. "This is a joke," Peskin said during a hearing of the Board's Government Audit and Oversight Committee. "It's a sham. It's not worth the paper it's printed on. We gave them an inch. They've taken a mile. This is preposterous."
Peskin has said that he will seek to introduce legislation cancelling next year's race and urged the city's mayor to cut all links with the race organisers. "To the mayor's office, I say you should write these folks a letter telling them they're in breach," Peskin said. "Send them packing.
"I'd like to figure out how in the heck we issued a permit to these folks. How did they get a permit for Labor Day weekend? They managed to disrupt the financial well-being of Chinatown and Fisherman's Wharf."
Dan Osipow, spokesman for the race and also vice-president of the Tailwind Sports company that owns the Discovery Channel team, denied Peskin's accusation that he had misled him. "I had absolutely no idea that nothing was paid for 2004," Osipow told the committee. "It would be pretty silly to show my face in this room, knowing that."
The San Francisco race is managed by Threshold Sports, who also put on the Wachovia Series on the USA's east coast in June.
Asked by the San Francisco Chronicle after the hearing whether he thought next year's race would take place, Osipow responded: "Unless things are cleared up, it sure doesn't look like it. We have to gain trust back immediately." Asked about the race's timing, Osipow admitted: "Clearly, Labor Day didn't work."
Another hearing is due to be held next week to establish which city official was responsible for granting the permit.
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