Barely a day after Force India’s historic podium finish at the Belgian Grand Prix, a war of words broke out between Sports Minister M S Gill and Vijay Mallya on the government’s refusal to acknowledge Formula One as a sport.
While Mallya questioned the Sports Ministry’s stand against Formula One, Gill virtually snubbed the liquor baron by calling it “expensive entertainment” and said the government would not change its stand just because of Force India’s performance.
Gill insisted that it was technology and not any sporting skill that determines the outcome of Formula One races.
“I congratulate them for their efforts but our view has been known for the past many many months. Formula One is the most expensive entertainment even in the west,” Gill said.
“The technology they use is far beyond anything here. So, our view is clear that we are focussed on promoting sports and that’s how it should be. The rest, it’s a free country, what they want to do here is their business,” he added.
But despite the Sports Ministry’s rejection, Mallya maintained India will host its maiden Formula One Grand Prix race as scheduled in 2011.
“We are definitely going to host the event. The organisers have acquired the land in Greater Noida and have started building the track,” Mallya said from Spa-Francorchamps, where Giancarlo Fisichella won Force India’s first Formula One points.
The 2011 Indian Grand Prix ran into rough weather after the Sports Ministry denied JPSK Sports, promoter of the event in India, approval to the remittance of $36.5 million to Formula One Administration in UK.
Adamant Sports Ministry officials maintain Formula One does not have the social relevance of an Olympic sport and have refused to give their nod to the transaction, which comes under the Foreign Exchange Management Act because it’s not desirable.
Mallya was baffled by the Sports Ministry’s stand against the Indian Grand Prix and wonders what prompted it to say that Formula One is not a sport as such. “How can they say that Formula One is not sport?” he asked.
“When hundreds of millions of people worldwide follow it as a sport, what makes them believe otherwise?” a miffed Mallya said.
“Formula One is the most watched sports in the world, of course outside Olympic Games and World Cup soccer. So it’s really unfair if someone says that Formula One is not a sport,” Mallya said.