Saturday, October 03, 2009

Ambrosia and Revelry

Are there any beer-drinking competitions anywhere? If not, it should be made a sport. It would probably involve more spectators than participants, true, but I'm sure Heineken and Stella Artois wouldn't be too unhappy at the idea. Imagine beer being drunk by the gallon, fans cheering on from the sidelines with mugs and cans in their hands, the odours of fermentation all around.

But for the competition part, the atmosphere at the Singapore GP quite matched what I've just described. Beer was by far the most popular drink at the venue. Why, you could even tell from the brochure- while not allowing visitors to bring in any food/beverages apart from water, it mentioned there was enough beer at the venue to cater to the 'thirst' of patrons.

In fact, F1 is not just about racing. There is much more than just fast cars and politics- it is a three-day carnival. DJs, discos, stand-up comedians, pop acts, a paddock full of celebrities- the Singapore GP is definitely one of the more glamorous races on the calendar, and also popular with a number of ex-drivers. The F1 race is preceded by other classes of racing, so spectators here were also treated to the sight of whizzing Porsche and BMW cars. The atmosphere is absolutely electric, charged up with thrill and a sense of anticipation. This being a night race, there are ample opportunities to make it a visual treat, and spice things up with a good dose of nightlife. F1 Rocks, a new concept, was introduced at this race, consisting of a series of concerts featuring popular acts from around the world, leading up to the three-day extravaganza. In simple words, F1 is money. It is a sport, of course, but also a means of flaunting wealth, yachts and celebrity girlfriends. Exclusive parties, corporate hospitality and champagne separate the 'riffraff ' from the 'celebrities', so while we buy our own tickets and walk around the circuit, soaking in the atmosphere and ogling at the large screens and the expensive cars, they watch from the comfort of the garages or their own personal suites, wherever they are. Which makes me wonder- how different would that be from watching the race on television, if you are ensconsed in a booth at the circuit and watching it on a screen anyway?

India should bring F1 to the country, but it shouldn't become a farce like the IPL, not a platform for actors to sell themselves and talk in outlandish accents about things they hardly understand. Considering that the Sports Ministry isn't, to put it mildy, keen on F1 or even faintly interested in its merits, and with all the sweating over the most expensive Commonwealth Games ever, it doesn't seem very likely that F1 will be in India in a hurry, notwithstanding the optimism of Vijay Mallya and Bernie Ecclestone put together. A few years to go, then, if we do ever hope to have in India a conglomeration of nationalities drinking beer, watching cars speed around curves and blind turns (legally, for a change).

How long can we avoid the lure of money, after all? Bring it on.

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