Indian Grand Prix hits roadblock

Indian Grand Prix hits roadblock

New Delhi: The 2011 Indian Grand Prix has hit a roadblock with the promoters of the event failing to get the government nod for remitting the money they owe to the UK-based Formula One Administration Ltd.

With the Sports Ministry denying JPSK Sports, promoters of the Indian Grand Prix, the approval to remit $36.5 million to the Formula One management, speculation is rife about the fate of the event and the hushed silence of the organisers are not helping their cause either.

JPSK sports managing girector Samir Gaur simply refused to entertain any query when asked for his version. “You have seen what has appeared in the media and I have nothing more to add," he said.

Officials in the Sports Ministry maintained it’s just not a simple case of giving the nod to a remittance since it involves the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA).

Joint Secretary I Srinivas said the Ministry did not okay the remittance because it did not look justifiable.

“Strictly in this context and under FEMA, the Ministry did not find the remittance desirable. They sought our recommendation for an outflow of nearly Rs200 crore which the Ministry felt was not justified for a motor race," said Srinivas. “We had to take a call on the matter and we took the call that it’s not desirable," he added.

Another Sports Ministry official, requesting anonymity, put it more succinctly. “Tell me how many people in India bother about motorsport? It’s a too niche and too elitist a sport, if you can call it a sport in the first place," he said.

“In their proposal, they talked how the Indian Grand Prix would woo tourists and boost tourism. If that’s the case, why don’t they approach the Tourism Ministry instead of knocking Sports Ministry’s door?" he said.

The Indian Grand Prix hit one roadblock after another since its inception. Once the track was earmarked, there was lot of confusion about who would run the show in the country.

Rather surprisingly, Indian Olympic Association president Suresh Kalmadi took a lot of interest in this non-Olympic event and announced that IOA would be the promoter of the event in the country.

Subsequently, German F1 architect Hermann Tilke, who has designed F1 circuits in Malaysia, Bahrain, China, Turkey, Spain and Singapore, surveyed the proposed site.

Land acquisition became another time-consuming affair and the organisers had to defer the Indian Grand Prix by a year from its original 2010 schedule. Not much of action was seen after that till Kalmadi’s son Sumeer’s role in JPSK Sports came into light recently and IOA hurriedly issued a press release, claiming it had given up the facilitator’s role two years back and has nothing to do with the venture now.

Kalmadi Jr is a director at Sulba Realty Private Limited which has some stakes in JPSK Sports Private Limited.