India Makes Debut On F1 Grand Prix Calendar This Week With Race Outside Delhi
F1 will stop in India "for the first time this week" as the Buddh Int'l Circuit makes its grand prix debut, according to Sarah Holt of the BBC. There is a "real sense of anticipation within the sport that the race outside the capital city of Delhi will add some spice to the season now [that] both championships have been settled -- as well as introducing a new global powerbroker into F1." F1 Management Chair Bernie Ecclestone "waited until the mid-Nineties before pursuing plans to add India to the calendar." An agreement to "stage the race in Greater Noida, a new city outside Delhi, was finally reached four years ago." The Indian government is "not committing any funds to the grand prix." A "private venture funded by construction specialists the Jaypee Group" has spent US$328M on the new track alone. The Buddh Int'l Circuit has been devised as the "centre piece of an ambitious 'Sports City', which will include hockey and tennis stadiums." Holt noted the "Indian potential audience is huge, with a population of 1.18 billion." However, a large population and a growing economy "does not necessarily make for a receptive audience -- as has been proved by the lacklustre response to the Chinese Grand Prix." TV audiences for the first grand prix event in India are "expected to rise above 30 [million], with an estimated 200,000 expected to watch from the grandstands over three days." Holt noted the "novelty of the first race is bound to lure in a new audience but sustaining both interest and growth in F1 when the circus leaves town is a different challenge" (BBC.co.uk, 10/24).
DRIVING GLOBALIZATION: REUTERS' Alistair Scrutton noted the race has "reignited India's perennial questioning of how far the country should go down the globalisation road." The event is "also just the latest example of international sports bodies ensuring they get a foot in this booming Asian marketplace with a huge advertising base of millions." India has "already attracted the attention of top European football clubs." But the "extravagance of the event and questions about land seizures to make way for the circuit have sparked criticism." The cheapest tickets are "about 2,500 rupees (about $50) -- about half the monthly wage of a cleaner," while the most expensive corporate boxes "go for about $200,000 -- and nearly all have been sold" (REUTERS, 10/25).