Sydney Opera House Lands Deal with Airline Sponsor

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The Sydney Opera House is denying claims that the World Heritage-listed arts complex will be renamed after it signed a three-year, multimillion-dollar deal with Etihad Airways.

''No, it doesn't involve renaming of the Sydney Opera House," Australia’s tourism minister George Souris said at a press conference on Monday. 

But the agreement is likely to result in Etihad's branding being placed in and around the iconic venue. In return, the airline, based in the United Arab Emirates, will provide transportation for performers as well as financial support. A source told The Australian that the airline's contribution is "less than $10 million.”

Among the beneficiaries of the deal is the Opera House's World Orchestra Program, which is slated to bring the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra of Amsterdam to Sydney in November.

Etihad Airways, with headquarters in Abu Dhabi, has several sponsorship deals in sports and entertainment, with stadiums in Melbourne, Australia and Manchester, England bearing its name. It also sponsors the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

The Sydney Opera House has other sponsors as well. Emirates, a rival airline, is the chief sponsor of the Sydney Symphony and Qantas sponsors the Australian Ballet. Etihad will be able to use images of the opera house in advertising with prior approval. The opera house was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2007.

The deal comes just months after a well-publicized incident between an Australian string quartet and staff of Etihad Airways. A violinist in the Childers Street Quartet was reportedly refused permission to carry his instrument on board a flight from Frankfurt to Abu Dhabi. The hour-long standoff was resolved after the other members of the quartet intervened.