Not the right Formula
Posted in: Sports
A couple of weeks ago a beaming Suresh Kalamadi, amidst muchfanfare and chest-beating, gloriously announced the signing of the agreement to host a Formula One race in Delhi in October 2009. Though what seems like a landmark event in the annals of India’s sports history, one needs to be reminded that the agreement in no certain terms guarantees that such an event will surely take place. It is merely a signal to the IOA to begin work to prepare the city for the premier racing event.
Failing to do so, could easily bring curtains down on the yet-to-be-held event.
All through the announcement, what seems to have left the observers completely bemused and flabbergasted is the muted stance taken by the honourable sports minister Mani Shankar Aiyar.
The non-reaction on the part of the former Petroleum Minister is disconcerting. Especially after his public verbatim with the IOA chief over the need to hold mega sporting events for a sporting laggard like India. How could he, without even a whimper, allow the IOA chief to commit 500 crores for an event which does not even fall under the purview of IOA?
It is surprising that the government, which is known to throw its weight around in matters where it holds some stake, allowed the IOA to go ahead with the Formula One event without any consultation. Probably Mr Aiyar’s silence could well be attributed to his fear of losing his sports ministry portfolio. There have been murmurs about the same for quite some time now within the ministry and among various sporting bodies of the country which want him butted out from the sports ministry.
One can only see foolhardiness in IOA’s relentless pursuit of mega sporting events - Asian Games 2014 and Olympics 2016 . For too long, we have attached unnecessary importance to international sporting events. We expect a trickle down effect to change the country’s sporting fortunes. The need of the hour is cultivating a vibrant, competitive and thriving environment for national and local level competitions.
Mani Shankar Aiyar was spot on when he said recently:
If I can leverage this to provide kitty to Panchayat Yuva Khel Abhiyan (a body that promotes sport among youth in villages) by 2012, I can assure you there can be at least minimum organised sports infrastructure, sports coaching and sports management for a large population of the neglected 720 million of our fellow countrymen. The minute we do that we can expect to return a respectable medals tally.
Some of biggest sporting events in the US like the NBA, NFL and NHL are all national level competitions. Yet they manage to garner more eyeballs, possess superior infrastructure and make more money for the players and administrators than some of the biggest international events. What is needed is not a top down but a bottom up approach to change the scenario Mr Aiyar seems to suggest.
Also while preparations for Commonwealth Games 2010 are running way behind the schedule, one wonders, how exactly the IOA will be able to pull off the Formula one Grand Prix which is scheduled before the games.
Globally it is the national motor racing associations that are responsible for holding such events. The King of Good Times and the President of Federation of Motor Sports Clubs of India chairman, Dr Vijay Mallya was visibly upset atnot being given the opportunity to host what many think is his pet project. He told media person recently:
Any race that has to be run in India has to be run under the banner of the recognised affiliate
Formula One in a country like India which does not have even the bare minimum motorsport infrastructure like high quality go-kart tracks, is more of a commercial venture than a sporting event. Yet considering the amount of money that is being pledged for the event it will take a few races to break even and a few more to post any significant profit.
Amidst such chaos and disorganization, our only hope is that IOA and the sports ministry resolve their misunderstandings. Eventually if India does hold a formula One race, it shouldn’t do so at the cost of the necessary basic sporting infrastructure.
Also by Amit Panhale
- Tendlya Vs Tugga - August 13th, 2007
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