Formula One, not a sport?

Posted: August 28, 2009 in Government of India, IPL, Sports Ministry
Tags: ,

According to the Government of India’s Sports Ministry, Formula One racing is not purely a sport, it is entertainment and the proposed F1 race “does not satisfy conditions which focus on human endeavour for excelling in competition with others.”

Such hogwash. Tell that to Felipe Massa, Roland Ratzenberger, Niki Lauda, Ayrton Senna or the countless others who have suffered either crippling injuries or have died on the track. Maybe, the FI organisers could ask the official concerned to get into an F1 car and take it for a spin. He’ll get a good feel of the human endeavour involved, when his car spins out of control and crashes into one of the berms! Hopefully, he’ll emerge from the experience, a much wiser man!

When you have a sports minister who doesn’t believe athletes are doing anything wrong while serving tea and biscuits to officials, the level of ignorance of his officials comes as no surprise. Of course, like all government officials they obviously believe that they should be served and doors opened for them. Is it any wonder that every sports body, but for cricket to some extent, is still caught in a time warp, with politicians and bureaucrats, with little or no knowledge of sports at the helm?

What’s wrong if motor sport is entertainment as well? Isn’t that what sports is all about? If this is the ministry’s thinking, why doesn’t the minister call for a ban on IPL? After all, IPL is pure entertainment; it has not got much to do with human endeavour, nationalism, or even pride. Everyone is in it for the money, and the more they rake in the better. We all know what transpired in the IPL in South Africa. It was less a cricket tournament and more a film party.

There is, of course, another possibility. You have to be blind, deaf…oops, sorry for being politically incorrect…physically and mentally challenged, not to know that the Formula One body is among the richest in the world. Have you tried squeezing lime into a glass? The more the lime, better the drink tastes! Is this really what it’s all about?

The sports ministry official’s comments remind me of the music company executive who once said of a now-legendary band: “We don’t like their sound, and guitar music is on the way out.” He was referring to The Beatles!

  1. Joe Pinto says:

    My dear Sinha,As usual, thanks for your uncanny talent of picking a controversial subject. Unlike you, I agree 100 percent with the GOI decision. But for entirely different reasons.Let me take the example you cite, cricket. I agree with your line; though I suspect you love cricket so dearly that you would not go the whole hog and take part in a campaign to de-recognise cricket as a sport. You may feel that lovers of the game can still salvage some bits or at least reclaim the corpse of a great game that has been "murdered" by the BCCI.Finally with the IPL 20-20, cricket is dead as a sport and has completely sunk into one part of the global entertainment industry. This was happening gradually, as the BCCI abandoned Test cricket. With the invention of the 50-50 one-day format and the explosion of the TV market, cricket was being slowly and steadily sucked into the entertainment business.Also take our own field, journalism. The space marketeers at the Times of India, Mumbai, have taken it over. The process, pioneered in the early 1990s by my friend Pradeep Guha, is complete now. I have been teaching in all my editing classes in Pune, that the Times of India should voluntarily withdraw its registration as a "newspaper" under the PRB Act and campaign for registration under a new category, say, "communication vehicle" or something more fancy. Or else the government should revoke its registration, since it has ceased to be a newspaper.Take for example, McDonald's, born in 1940 as "typical drive-in with a large menu and a car hop service". Today the Big Mac is a branded excuse to make money. By its own admission and internal documents, McDonald's is positioned as "the edible part of the entertainment industry". Its loyal customers are lured to "enjoy" themselves under the "Golden Arches". Designed by an architect in 1953, the Golden Arches have helped to convert the Big Mac from a "hamburger" into a "pop culture icon". So if it satisfies my pangs of hunger that is purely co-incidental.The same holds true for Formula One. If you study the history of this car race, it has got nothing to do with sports. It was invented to help publicise the automobile industry. Mohan, the trick is to disguise F-1 as a sport so that you and I may watch it and the organisers and entertainment industry can make money.The only reason I can think of why the GOI is not accepting F-1 as a sport is that the politicians (ministers) and bureacrats are not being "educated" like Enron used to "educate" journalists, ministers and bureaucrats regarding Dabhol.Thank you for giving me an F-1 peg, on which to hang my views about the political economy of sports.Peace and love,- Joe.

  2. Kirti Patil says:

    F1 and India:Well, to be frank JPSK Sports, the Jaypee Group promoted firm, shouldn't have sought concessions from the government. The question is not whether F1 is sports or not. The question is whether India can afford to host such an event with such archaic laws governing the country.Do we have such a big airport to house huge cargo planes that these teams travel with? Every team has two minimum cargo planes that carry their cars (4 maximum) and the entire paraphernalia – tyres, paddocks, computers, the consoles, spares et all. They will be parked at airport for at least a week from the start of the Sunday race. There are 10 teams now, there will be 13 in 2010. If and when India gets the F1, do we have hangers to hold around 26 cargo planes for a week? We don’t have such huge parking facilities. Then there is an issue of customs. We don't allow anything in without the duties. Viswanathan Anand was asked to pay duty on a laptop that he got as a prize way back in early 90s. The teams will resent this because they don’t pay any in other countries where F1 is hosted. Apart from that hosting an F1 is anyway a loss making venture for the organiser as they have to pay huge fee to Bernie Ecclestone and the FIA. Unless government backs it there is no point in having F1.And since the Indian government isn't interested it seems there is no way out.Actually, what F1 does is attracts tourists in hoards and the money comes from the participating teams, not in cash but in kind. It is for the government to realise and cash in on. The hotel industry is one that gets benefitted. Everyone pays for their stay and food. Its not the organisers who picks up the bill so that is another way to earn money. Despite government backing, Australian GP in Melbourne and several others have not made profits and continue to log losses. Can JKSP afford it. If not, without the government support, then it is better to back off. The spin-offs of having a F1 track in place are huge, but we will need to think big and harness it otherwise it will be a dud investment to be used once a year for that one week.And, finally, the whole episode of F1 began in India because, now as we understand Mr Suresh Kalmadi wanted his son to get a head start in sports administration. He was appointed on the JKSP. First, there was a talk of having F1 in New Delhi, but Delhi airport was too small for such venture and no land was around it to expand. Then it was thought to be moved to Gurgaon, but again airport was to be Delhi.Then some clever chap in Mayawati's government pushed for Greater Noida and the project got its third kick. Jaypee Group, which has come into housing sector very recently but have been in construction business for long building most of the major dams in the north including Tehri, have huge land ownings in Greater Nodia.The proposal was they will use part of their land, around 300 acres, for the F1 track, and Agra, which is just 1 hour from there through Taj Expressway that runs along the proposed F1 track site, would gets its long-awaited brand new International Airport.There was one study which claimed that 80 percent of foreign tourists who land in Delhi are actually headed for Agra for the Taj Mahal. It would be beneficial for the UP government to have them land directly on their land rather than in Delhi and lose out on whatever income. Its too intricate it is. We will never know whether the Indian government rejected the proposal to rebuff Mayawati or not. Its a long shot. But, worth investigating. One thing is sure, powers in Delhi do not want International Airport in Agra for both, security and financial reasons. Indian Air Force's key squadrons are based in Agra and IAF would definitely not like it to happen. Look at Pune. Unless we go to Chakan and have the airport, IAF will keep on grudging over Lohegaon.Kirti Patil

  3. Pramod says:

    Great Article Mohan . I do not quite understand why people need comparisons and most of the issues mentioned above are beyond my challenged comprehension. These are a few things I will Attempt to put forward; please bear with me.1) Any normal driver will tell you that you get more tired when you drive very fast as against a steady drive.2) Everyone must have felt the tiredness after a 200km drive.3) Remember the feeling after a close shave.4) Now Imagine doing 300kms with 50 close calls losing 4 kg weight .1 sec delay in reaction = DEATH…5) If a layman is put in a F1 car as a Passenger he will have spinal injury ( and I dont know what else) if he dose't die of fright.6) The physical fitness of an F1 racer ( all forms of higher motorsports) is something that only a very( unimaginably) demanding training routine,strict diet and lifestyle can provide. And somethings like spinal conditioning can only happen driving on the Track at those speeds.7) The other issue is Development of the sport. There are many Developmental activities going on at the moment with many People dedicating their life and resources to the Sport.8) I suggest to any skeptics 10 laps in a Go kart at avg speed of 45 Kmph if you can manage it to understand the physical part of Driving at much higher levels.( if you do 50 you are a potential Karthikeyan go for it!!!)9) An f1 driver's heart beats at a very high rate continuously(150 to 210,+, -) for the duration of the race (1 hr+)F1 ( all motorsports) is one of the ,if not the most physically,emotionally and mentally challenging Sport!!! & yes Financially too.Regarding Funding, Duty Exemptions, Monetary benefits to Host Country Advertising benefits TV Rights I am at a Loss to comment. I am very confident that the people involved are very Competent and importantly DOERS!!!

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