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usm-red.gif (836 bytes)Formula for sucess
Grand Prix car racing at Calcutta

by Ranjan Sengupta

There can be no formula for popularity. The Formula One Grand Prix Tournament may not be a byword grapri.jpg (5459 bytes)for popular sports in this part of the country,may be entire India too, but it sure will hog the limelight in the future after the Left Front Government’s initiative to host the championship in the first year of the next millennium.

The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) regarding this international extravaganza was sent to the State Government on November12 and the newly set up Grand Prix India Limited will work with the state representatives to put things in order for the event. The site selected for the venue is Rajarhat near Dum Dum airport and an approximate amount of $ 100 million will be spent for the tournament and its frillings. The stadium will cover 420 acres and the final deed will be signed within three months.

The Grand Prix tournament, held in 17 countries between March and November, sparkles with extravaganza, the likes of which are not even seen during cricket and football world cups. India has never ever seen such splendor; the Left Front Government, in setting up this facility, will provide the nation a chance to see what many people can only dream of attending.

With a television viewership of more than nine million, the tournament and its prospective business has already started its own race for sponsorship with world giants like IBM, Mercedes, Ford, Honda, ITH, Castrol, Benson & Hedges, Goodyear, Phillips, all eyeing it with great expectations.

We are familiar with idolising; Sachin Tendulkar is a god of sorts and Baichung Bhutia may be lesser, but he is a god all the same. But we are quite unused to the idolatory associated with the Formula One participants; the winners are taken to dizzying heights of fame with a speed which can only rival their own on the tracks.

One example will suffice. The number of people which attended the funeral of the driver Aierton Sena was greater than the that present during the Paris World Cup football finals; his popularity graph anyway was higher than that of tennis ace Pete Sampras or soccer star Ronaldo. The streamlined aerodynamically perfect cars used for racing are equally famous and they cost about 1,50,000 pounds.

Japan has been the sole Asian country to have ever hosted the Formula One Racing Tournament. But now, China and Malaysia have joined in with the two nations hosting the championship next year. India had been a debating point for quite some time now; however, arguments are now history and Calcutta is getting ready for the mega event, leaving behind Bangalore, Delhi, Chennai and Mumbai in the race for the coveted honour.

The reasons for selecting Calcutta have been obvious. There are no power problems, the infrastructure is ready and what is most important for a mega event of this kind; the state has unmatched political stability. Rajarhat has been chosen for its proximity to the airport. The state, for those who wish to raise eyebrows, will be able to generate foreign exchange through this venture and the country will be richer through the effort.

A committee called the "West Bengal Motor Council" will be created with ministers Subhash Chakraborty and Gautam Deb as its chairman and vice-chairman respectively. There will be heavy-duty representations from the areas of sports, business, hotels and motor associations.

The minister for sports, Mr Chakraborty, has said that the West Bengal government will have equity stake in the new venture. Environmental issues will be taken care of after an "impact study."

Alongside the championship, a plan for setting up a mechanics and design workshop has been set into motion. A new car model created in India has to be sent to foreign countries for testing because India does not have the necessary arrangements for car testing. It is learnt that if the Formula One Racing tournament is a success, then on the same track, Formula two, Formula three tournaments will be organised.

Calcutta has been famous for many ventures; the Formula One Championships could be the final nail in the coffin of the detractors of this city who raise eyebrows at every positive venture that this metropolis indulges in. All eyes are on Calcutta. Racing will not only be a question of horses any longer.

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