I am not a follower of Motor Sports and in particular F1. But I do observe a growing community of folks, who follow it with tremendous passion. Hearing their detailed analysis on what went right or wrong with the race both amuses and impresses me at the same time. In the last several years, F1 following in India has grown tremendously in terms of TV viewership and even merchandise, if I may add so. The recent good showing by Force India is only going to increase the interest manifold if they manage to sustain the results. Net result is that the future of F1 looks bright in India and given that the F1 body is serious about adding India to their race calendar only adds to the confirmation that all things seem to be coming together at the right time.
However a recent comment by our Sports Minister that “F1 is not a sport” has raised quite a stink among the F1 followers. The ministry does not want to grant permission for holding the race in India since it is a not a sport but a business. Several folks have been angered by these statements. People right from Dr. Vijay Mallya to the average F1 viewer have been quick to react to the Minister. Most of the folks have argued that the Ministry does not understand it or is bent upon killing the sport, etc.
I wish to present my own reaction to the statement that “F1 is not a sport” and I also wish to present a very basic fact that seems to be missing from all the reactions that have been made in response to our Sports Ministry’s statement. I do not argue with the ministry that it is a not a sport. In fact I would go to the extent of saying that there is a no such thing as a pure sport anymore. The definition of sport in today’s world according to me is “A business of putting together a product (which comprises of participants, playing equipment and some rules) that will attract viewers, sponsorship and generate revenue for the parent organizing body”. You are living in an imaginary world if you think that some approximation of my statements cannot be applied to any sport. So our Ministry is right that it is not a sport anymore. But at the same time, I am pretty sure that there is no sport that is not a business either.
What disappoints me about their statement is not really if F1 is a sport or not. In fact that is the least of my issues with their statement. What worries me is that they have no sense of the term “Inspiration“. Inspiration I believe is the key that all of us have used from time to time to spur us on to greater achievements. Let me quote some points for you to think about:
- How many of us wanted to become a Sunil Gavaskar or a Kapil Dev when growing up?
- How many of our current budding cricketers want to be a Sachin Tendulkar? I still remember vividly when we were young, some of us used to actually say to ourselves and our elders that when I grow up I would like to be a cricketer and like Sunil Gavaskar. Now come on admit it !
- How many of current young entrepreneurs wish to emulate a Murthy, Premji or a Tata?
- Ask most chess players and they would tell you that in their hearts they wish they could be an Anand.
- How many of us wish to emulate the success story of our parents or a brother/sister or a relative?
- The list is almost endless….
The point I am trying to make is that we have created an environment in which we can get inspired by people who have done it or are doing it. And in turn we can be the ones who can do it tomorrow. We have a cricketing system in place in which children can get inspired and dream of being the next Tendulkar. We have a software exports industry now in which you could be the next one creating a product that the world can use. The systems have been created and the environment is now there for us to dream and execute. And above all we have examples of people that we can take inspiration from. Our execution may not reach us in line with our dream result but it will not be for lack of an environment.
So by refusing to entertain F1, what our Ministry is doing is preventing the development of an environment that could create future champions from India itself. We need the race tracks and infrastructure so that future generations can dream of being on the tarmac and having an entire nation rooting for them to win. We need that desperately and by rejecting it outright with some flimsy argument about it being a business and not a sport is similar to having given up the race without even making a start (A false start should I say since we are talking F1 here).
This discussion also brings to my mind another debate that typically rages around whether India needs to send a man to moon. Skeptics argue that it is a waste of money and that there are real issues to be solved on Earth instead of the Moon. I think they are right in their arguments but to me it is not the physical act of sending a man to the moon that is important. It is creating an environment in which science has triumphed, the current crop of scientists can dream even bigger and inspire the next generation of scientists to aim higher. Please understand that.
I end with a famous quote from John Muir : The power of imagination makes us infinite.
In summary, it is not F1 that is being hurt here by the ministry but our future generations who are being told not to imagine or aspire for things not achieved before by any of us. And that is a sad thing indeed…