F1 race wont help develop sport in India, says govt

NEW DELHI Tue Aug 25, 2009 3:10pm IST

Force India Formula One driver Giancarlo Fisichella of Italy drives during the Hungarian F1 Grand Prix at the Hungaroring circuit near Budapest in this July 26, 2009 file photo. REUTERS/Stoyan Nenov/Files

Force India Formula One driver Giancarlo Fisichella of Italy drives during the Hungarian F1 Grand Prix at the Hungaroring circuit near Budapest in this July 26, 2009 file photo.

Credit: Reuters/Stoyan Nenov/Files

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - India's government believes hosting a Formula One race will have no impact on the development of sport in the country, local media reported on Tuesday.

India is scheduled to host its first F1 grand prix in 2011, but the sports ministry has described it as "entertainment" and said it failed to meet certain sporting criteria.

The sports ministry's comments came in a letter in January in which it rejected a request by race promoters JPSK Sports to remit $36.5 million in foreign currency to the British-based Formula One Administration, Times of India reported.

"It (the race) would have no impact on the development of sports in the country," ministry officials told the paper.

"F1 is not purely sports. It is entertainment and this venture by JPSK is a commercial initiative," an unnamed ministry official said.

"The proposed F1 race does not satisfy conditions which focus on human endeavour for excelling in competition with others, keeping in view the whole sports movement from Olympics downwards."

The company's managing director, Samir Gaur, told the newspaper it was fully committed to the project despite the ministry's stand.

"Yes, we went to the ministry seeking government concessions. If need be, we will go again," he said. "We're 200 percent committed to the F1 race in India."

Gaur told Reuters in April that JPSK Sport, floated by a diversified group controlled by his family with market capitalisation of over $2 billion, would get the track ready in time despite the global economic meltdown.

Cricket-mad India has warmed up to Formula One with support zooming since Narain Karthikeyan became the first Indian driver in the series in 2005.

While there is no Indian driver currently in Formula One, liquor and airline billionaire Vijay Mallya owns the Force India team.

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