Force India chairman Vijay Mallya is baffled by the Sports Ministry’s stand against the 2011 Indian Grand Prix and wonders what prompted it to say that Formula One is not a sport as such.

Talking to PTI from Spa-Francorchamps, where Giancarlo Fisichella finished second in the Belgian Grand Prix to win Force India’s first Formula one points, Mallya said he was completely stunned by the Sports Ministry’s observation.

“How can they say that Formula One is not sport?” he asked. “When hundreds of millions of people worldwide follow it as a sport, what makes them believe otherwise?” a miffed Mallya said.

“Formula One is the most watched sports in the world, of course outside Olympic Games and World Cup soccer. So it’s really unfair if someone says that Formula One is not a sport,” Mallya said.

The 2011 Indian Grand Prix ran into rough weather with the Sports Ministry denying JPSK Sports, promoter of the event in India, approval to the remittance of USD 36.5 million to Formula One Administration in UK.

Adamant Sports Ministry officials maintain Formula One does not have the social relevance of an Olympic sport and they refused to give their nod to the transaction, which comes under the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA) because it’s not desirable.

“Strictly in this context, the Ministry did not find the remittance desirable. They sought our recommendation for an outflow of nearly Rs 200 crore, which the Ministry felt was not justified for a motor race,” joint secretary in the Sports Ministry I Srinivas said.

The Ministry is not impressed with the promoters’ logic that the Indian Grand Prix would boost tourism and real estate in the country.

“If that’s the case, why don’t they go to the Tourism Ministry instead of knocking our door,” a Ministry official said.

Mallya, however, had no doubt whatsoever that India would host the 2011 Grand Prix.

“We are definitely going to host the event. The organisers have acquired the land in Greater Noida and have started building the track,” he said.

On the Sports Ministry’s stance, Mallya said, “Look, this is a substantial amount of money to be transacted out of the country and the Ministry officials naturally have some concerns. May be the promoters need to meet them again and explain it in details.”

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