India is to host a motor Grand Prix race in 2009 after the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) announced a deal with formula one boss, Bernie Ecclestone. IOA president Suresh Kalmadi says IOA is on the look out for land on the outskirts of New Delhi to construct a brand new facility to stage the race, and that a street circuit is out of the reckoning. Delhi will join such Asian cities as Abu Dhabi, Shanghai, and Sepang on the F-1 map of the world.
At one level, the announcement puts the lid on speculation on which city would be the F-1 venue, with Bangalore, Calcutta and Madras all jostling for the “honour”. At another level, the announcement reopens all the usual questions. Does “poor” India need Formula One races, especially after it was suggested that Chandrababu Naidu may have been toppled while bending backwards to get F-1 to Hyderabad?
Questions: For a country whose sporting achievements are far from Olympian, should the IOA be wasting untold millions on F-1? Are we creating lasting sporting infrastructure by building a new track, or are we squandering public money? Should Mani Shankar Aiyar‘s sports ministry, which has been at daggers drawn with Kalmadi over India’s failed Asiad bid, entertain the IOA to please a few F-1 fans? Or is it all OK if it can help present a nice image of India to the world?