Australia readies for Oprah

2010-12-05 07:21

Sydney - When US talkshow supremo Oprah Winfrey films her show Down Under this month, Karen Ferrazzo will celebrate by hosting a barbecue in her honour, complete with Oprah-inspired snacks.

Ferrazzo, 36, is not expecting the megastar to descend on her home in Melbourne's leafy north for the event - but the mother of two is fully expecting to get caught up in the 'Oprah fever' hitting the nation.

"Because we didn't win tickets (to Oprah's two Sydney shows) we decided the next best thing was to celebrate and be part of the festivities the 'Australian' way," Ferrazzo told AFP.

"There will be Aussie wines and beers and plenty of love for Oprah on the day."

Oprah's announcement that she would film her hugely popular show in Australia has created excitement around the country, with hordes of fans beyond the 12 000 who won tickets expected to descend on Sydney's Opera House for the December 14 shows - the first ever shot outside the United States.

The famous sail-shaped monument will temporarily become the 'Oprah House', nearby streets will be blocked off and special buses brought in to transport the thousands of fans expected to try to catch a glimpse of the star.

Nearby, the Sydney Harbour Bridge will reportedly be adorned with a giant 'O' in honour of the American host whose show is viewed by 40 million people in the US every week and airs in more than 140 countries.

Australian tourism operators are jostling for the attention of Oprah's producers while one former national tourism minister has hailed the visit as a "godsend" to the embattled industry.

Australia paid $2.3m to lure the 56-year-old Down Under, and Tourism Australia managing director Andrew McEvoy believes the publicity will result in her fans visiting to see the showcased beaches, vineyards and Outback for themselves.

McEvoy said Oprah Winfrey Show viewers were typically women aged between 25 and 54 with above average incomes.

"In the US, she rates better with people who earn more than 75-grand a year and even better better with people who earn more than 90-grand," McEvoy told the National Press Club last week."They're the people making travel decisions. And in our industry, they are gold."

Visit 'very important'

Oprah-talk even enlivened national parliament in Canberra last month, with the Australian Tourism Minister Martin Ferguson branding the visit a major coup.

"The tourism industry at the moment is very challenged by the strength of the Australian dollar," he said in reference to the currency, which has hit record post-float highs this year, briefly reaching parity with the US dollar.

"People must appreciate that tourism is a major employer of Australians, just under one million directly and indirectly," he told parliament.

"In that context, the Oprah Winfrey Show is very important."

His comments drew jeers from the opposition benches, prompting him to reply that "thousands of Australians - including those from the opposition side of the house - have sought tickets" to the Oprah shows.

Few details of the shows to be filmed in Australia have been revealed, but besides the two Opera House tapings a third show will be filmed somewhere in the Outback.

High-profile Australians are expected to appear in the episodes, including Nicole Kidman and husband Keith Urban, Cate Blanchett, Hugh Jackman and Russell Crowe.

Ferrazzo said she had considered jumping on a plane and flying to Sydney to enjoy the buzz of being in the same city as Winfrey, before deciding on her Oprah-themed barbecue in which prawns will be joined head-to-tail to resemble an 'O' and cupcakes will look like mini-versions of the Sydney Oprah House.

"A lot of people can relate to her," she said, in explanation for Oprah's appeal. "She ticks off every nook and cranny as far as life experience goes.

"There's a lot of love for Oprah."

Winfrey reportedly arrives on Tuesday for her whirlwind nine-day visit.