November 1, 2012 / 1:02 PM / 6 years ago

Melbourne Cup: the race that intoxicates a city

A spectator watches the horses in the parade ring during Melbourne Cup at Flemington racecourse in Melbourne November 1, 2011. REUTERS/Brandon Malone

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - A report released on Thursday came to a conclusion that will come as no surprise to anyone who has been in Australia’s second most populous city on the first Tuesday in November - the Melbourne Cup is the “booziest” sporting event of the year.

The richest two-mile handicap in the world, the latest version of which will be contested for a purse of A$6.2 million ($6.43 million) next week, is traditionally known as “the race that stops a nation” and the people of the state of Victoria get a public holiday to enjoy it.

It has also become the state’s “most notorious event associated with acute alcohol intoxication, assaults and accidents”, according to VicHealth and Eastern Health Turning Point’s report “Drinking Cultures and Sporting Occasions”.

The report recorded ambulance call-outs, the number of people turning up at hospital emergency departments and police data on assaults and traffic incidents in Melbourne from 2000 to 2009.

VicHealth chief executive Jerril Rechter said the advertising of alcohol was at least in part to blame for the amount of drunkenness and knock-on social and health problems.

“Alcohol is promoted heavily in the lead up to sporting events because, unfortunately, it’s engrained in Aussie culture to binge drink on these occasions,” she said in a news release.

“It’s crazy that a loophole in the law allows alcohol advertising on TV during the day if it’s part of live sports broadcast.

“This means that kids watching the Cup and other major sporting events see countless ads for alcohol. Is it any surprise this is the lead sporting event in the Victorian sports calendar for youth binge drinking?”

Local health experts and emergency services are urging the people of the city to drink responsibly in the lead up to the race. ($1 = 0.9644 Australian dollars)

Reporting by Nick Mulvenney in Sydney, editing by Greg Stutchbury

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