As the engines fire up for the Formula One Grand Prix event near Delhi on Sunday, Union Sports Minister Ajay Maken will be in Kerala; he has not been invited to India's first such international event.

Mr. Maken, who was at Kinalur near here on Saturday to inaugurate the work on laying synthetic tracks at the Usha School of Athletics, confirmed to TheHindu that he had not received an invitation from the organisers.

‘Not a star’

“I did not expect them to invite me because I'm not a star or an item girl,” the Minister told reporters. “The Sports Ministry had rejected requests for exemption from tax and customs duty [for the event], so I was not expecting an invitation from them.”

Athletes-centred management

Mr. Maken said he would in any case have preferred to spend his time at an academy run by an illustrious athlete like P.T. Usha. “As Sports Minister I feel I should do more for academies in remote villages like this,” he said. “The Central government will encourage athletes who have won laurels for the country to start academies. What we need in India is a more athletes-centred sports management. We have to develop sports around them.”

Mr. Maken has since reached Kochi.

He will go to Munnar to visit a high-altitude training centre there on Sunday, before going on to Thiruvananthapuram.

Passes sent home

PTI reports from New Delhi:

A top source in the Sports Ministry said the organisers of the Grand prix event had indeed sent two passes for Mr. Maken to his residence. However, “it is not the way to invite the Sports Minister to such an event,” the source said. “It's nothing but a deliberate slight to the Minister.”

The Jaypee Group, which has built the swanky Buddh International Circuit at a cost of around Rs. 2,000 crore, had appealed to the government to reconsider the tax exemption issue, but the Sports Ministry rejected it on October 24.

The Ministry source said that the Commonwealth Games and the Cricket World Cup were granted tax exemption on the basis of certain preconditions such as that the championship would be held in India after such a commitment was available.

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