Melbourne Cup 'booziest' Aussie event

Last updated 15:04 01/11/2012

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Victorian paramedics fear resources are being diverted to treat binge drinkers, as a new report shows the Melbourne Cup is the city's booziest sporting event.

The race topped the tables as the worst sporting event for alcohol intoxication and assaults during the day and before the event, according to the VicHealth and Eastern Health Turning Point report entitled Drinking Cultures and Sporting Occasions.

Ambulance Victoria operations manager Paul Holman said ambulance services had to deal with alcohol-related assaults, hospitalisation and illnesses, seeing about 130 patients over the Melbourne Spring Racing Carnival.

"We see the full gamut of the adverse effect of alcohol," he told journalists on Thursday at the launch of the report.

"Those ambulances are not available to the rest of the community."

Mr Holman said binge drinking had a ripple effect on the whole community.

"There is an attitude problem. It's some sort of kudos to go out and get as legless as possible," he said.

The Melbourne Cup also ranked highest for motor accidents involving men, with the AFL grand final and international cricket the worst overall for motor accidents before and during the event.

The research was the first time a direct link had been made between sports and alcohol harm, says one of the report's authors, Dr Belinda Lloyd.

"The Melbourne Cup is a great opportunity to catch up with family and friends and enjoy the event," Dr Lloyd said.

"However, it's a problem when alcohol becomes the central focus of the day.

"Whether you're on course for the races or having a barbecue with mates, everyone should be aware of the dangers of excessive alcohol consumption."

The research found there was also a spike in alcohol-related emergency presentations and ambulance call-outs the day before the Melbourne Cup as people were drinking more because they had the public holiday to recover.

VicHealth chief executive Jerril Rechter said the results reinforced the need to rethink young people's exposure to alcohol advertising through sport.

"Alcohol is promoted heavily in the lead-up to sporting events because, unfortunately, it's ingrained in Aussie culture to binge drink on these occasions," Ms Rechter said.

The report records ambulance attendances, hospital emergency presentations, admissions and police data on assaults and traffic incidents in Melbourne from 2000 to 2009.

The researchers looked at the Melbourne Cup, Formula 1 grand prix, cricket, AFL, Australian soccer, the Commonwealth Games and the World Cup soccer final involving Australia.

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