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Can India race to the big league?

February 19, 2005 14:27 IST

It all boils down to sponsorship money and India's potential as a market. China has been tapped into and with the European sports market close to saturation point, it's only natural for sports promoters, organisers and sponsors to start looking at Asia.

It's no wonder that European football clubs plan trips to Asia each year; the European Professional Golf Association has no less than nine events in Asia (five in China alone); and there are Formula-1 races in Malaysia, Bahrain, China and possibly Turkey and India in the future.

And there will finally be an Indian on the F-1 circuit. The formalities are taken care of, the test runs done, the license secured and hopefully the sponsorships will come in.

After years of hanging on in the hope of racing with the best in the biggest of all leagues, Narain Karthikeyan has achieved his ultimate dream.

It is not inconceivable that in five years India might even have an F-1 race of its own, and of course more drivers on the F-1 circuit.

Smaller countries like Malaysia, Singapore and of late, even Qatar, have been using sport to attract tourists.

Each of these smaller countries has built sporting properties which are growing in value each year and add up to make a tidy package for any visitor.

Coming to visit Malaysia has an added meaning now that it also offers high quality golf events and the F-1.

China has used golf and the 2008 Olympics as a huge platform to assert its position as a global superpower.

Mission Hills Golf Resort in Shenzen has 10 championship golf courses in a single resort and each one of them is designed by a top player like Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Greg Norman, Ernie Els, Vijay Singh, Colin Montgomerie, Nick Faldo and so on.

China also conducts top quality events with increasing regularity. And now there is the F-1, too.

In sharp contrast, India is still divided over whether or not it can afford a Commonwealth Games. But hosting a major Games does not only mean expenditure.

It also means a boost to the economy, with new roads, new bridges, the metro, sky trains and so on, which stay on long after the Games are over -- remember how the face of Delhi changed after the 1982 Asian Games?

A major games means visitors, participants and media, which can boost the image of the country and bring in revenue. India, with its huge offerings in terms of culture, can add sport to its portfolio, just as China and other countries did.

There was a time when cities faced ruin after a major games like Montreal did in 1976 --the residents are still paying a tax because of that -- but after 1984, the first professionally managed Games, the Olympics have been a money spinner for the host city and country.

Games are now run like a corporation, which is how sports federations are also run the world over. But unfortunately in India, they are still run and controlled by politicians who work in an 'honorary' capacity.

And that's where the problem lies -- there is no accountability.

A professional CEO can be sacked or retained on the basis of his or her performance, but an 'honorary' politician simply walks away from it all.
V Krishnaswamy
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