Australia's Plan to Turn Sydney Opera House Into Giant 'Billboard' Prompts Enormous Backlash

The Sydney Opera House will be used to run a 10-minute commercial for an upcoming horse race. Getty Images

Australia's Sydney Opera House will be used to promote a horse race—a move that has sparked backlash from residents countrywide.

New South Wales premier Gladys Berejiklian has allowed the the Sydney Opera House to advertise the Everest Cup via projections on its walls. The decision was supported by Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who said, "This is one of the biggest events of the year. Why not put it on the biggest billboard Sydney has?"

According to ABC, Racing NSW chief executive Peter V'landys told 2GB radio that the advertisement would bring A$100 million ($70 million) to the state's economy. The light show will feature the race's theme colors, the word "Everest" and jockey numbers.

Opera House chief executive Louise Herron had originally agreed to project the colors but denied the named branding, saying it was "inappropriate" commercialization. Her decision was overruled by Berejiklian, who approved a 10-minute ad. V'Landys said that simply showing the colors would not have been enough, and that he wanted the Everest name on the opera house.

Morrison, who became Prime Minister in August, said the decision was a "no-brainer" and that he "can't work out what all the fuss is about." "I come from a tourism background; these events generate massive opportunities for the state, for the city," Morrison said, according to the Sydney Morning Herald. "It's just common sense, and I don't know why people are getting so precious about it. Sometimes people have just got to have a bit of a lie-down on this sort of stuff."

The Sydney Opera House is a World Heritage Site. According to The Guardian, a Unesco spokesperson said the organization would be "looking into" the decision.

Bill Shorten, leader of the opposition, said he did not look at the Sydney Opera House as a billboard. "Communities around the world draw the line at describing their national heritage as a billboard," Shorten said, according to Sky News.

A petition on has already garnered nearly 200,000 signatures opposing the billboard. Clover Moore, the mayor of Sydney, labeled the commercial "blatant commercialization…for an industry notorious for damaging gambling and animal cruelty."