London-based Formula One Administration Ltd has reached a preliminary understanding with the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) to bring Formula One to India in 2009.
The IOA executive committee ratified the proposal in Delhi on Thursday, which will make the association the first Olympic body in any country to promote F1, a non-Olympic sport. “We recognize 50 sports outside the Olympic disciplines and Formula One is one,” IOA president Suresh Kalmadi said.
A letter from Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone to Kalmadi on 1 June clarified the “common understanding” was subject to a formal contract being signed by the end of September. IOA’s involvement will be restricted to raising necessary financing, either through government or private funding or both; it will also have to pay for the designing.
Circuit rights relating to trackside advertising, event title sponsorship, hospitality, vending and exhibition, and event merchandising rights would rest with Formula One Management’s affiliate APM Sport (Ireland) Ltd.
IOA is not keen on street circuits, saying this wasn’t feasible in India; thus, it will scout for land to build a conventional road circuit in New Delhi. “We are looking at two-three places,” Kalmadi said, without disclosing details.
People associated with the sport say the cost of building a circuit could be Rs350-500 crore, depending on location. The high costs involved for an event that lasts just a weekend a year was the main reason why advocates of F1 in India have been pushing for a street circuit.
But Kalmadi said the event, to be called the Formula One Grand Prix of India, would drive tourists to the country every year. The inaugural race would also stoke interest in the Commonwealth Games, to be held in the same city the following year, he said.
New Delhi was also chosen since its new airport should be ready by 2009, allowing it to accommodate the 20 jumbo jets required to haul the cars to a host venue, Kalmadi added.