Two city councillors who dared question the relevance of an underwear footrace have copped a barrage of criticism from community members.
Peter Hulin and Peter Sycopoulis revealed their reservations about the annual Undy 500 on Monday night and hinted to council colleagues that maybe it was time to try another feature event with more clothes on.
“I’m not in favour of the Undy 500 event,” Cr Hulin said. “I don’t think it says much for our town.”
Cr Sycopoulis later said: “I’m not a prude, but I find it a distasteful event.
“I was hoping there would be another option rather than people running up the street in their underwear.”
The event, first held in February 2002 as a fund-raiser, has attracted hundreds of contestants, some of whom strip down to underwear, while others wear fancy dress or pull underwear over their running garments.
When The Standard posted the issue on Facebook yesterday morning it prompted immediate public response with an overwhelming degree of support for the event.
“You take the fun and humour out of these Warrnambool events, people will stop attending, therefore the council will kill its own festivals,” said Callum Rowe.
Wunta Fiesta’s new chairwoman Catherine Williams challenged the two councillors to join the fun on February 1 on Liebig Street after the community breakfast.
“It’s no different to people running down at the beach, and most of the entrants wear leggings and just put their undies over the top anyway,” she said. “Perhaps councillors Sycopoulis and Hulin could strip down to their undies and run next year. Perhaps it will change their minds.”
She welcomed the unexpected boost in publicity because the committee had been hoping to make the event bigger and better.
Mayor Michael Neoh has been in the event twice — once with the then mayor James Nicol and Brenda Hampson of Moyne Shire Council, and later as city mayor with council environmental mascot Captain Sustain the Bool. “I was wearing boxer shorts and T-shirt in the first then boxer shorts and a cape in the second,” Cr Neoh recalled.
“You see a lot more flesh on the sports field sometimes, especially in a triathlon.”
Cr Rob Askew recalled it was his idea that triggered the event. “I had been to an ironman competition in Taupo New Zealand and noticed a side entertainment where people dressed in costumes and wandered down the street and through shops,” he said.
“I think it was called Undy Down Under. I mentioned it to Radio 3YB manager Peter Headon and he took it from there to make a uniquely Warrnambool event.”
Before the inaugural Undy 500 the then city council events officer Cecilia Weuffen said “we are encouraging people to be a bit comical, a bit creative within the bounds of decency”.