Do Indian businesses really support sport?

I’m a big fan of all things related to sports, so it comes as no surprise when I say that the UK India Business Council put together a fantastic line-up of sports personalities at their gala dinner last week, which took place at the Royal Courts of Justice and should be congratulated. In attendance were Dame Kelly Holmes, Monty Panesar, Kapil Dev, and the guy who brought the IPL to the world – Lalit Modi.

Earlier in the day, I’d had the privilege to attend the baton relay that had been organised by Buckingham Palace to mark the start of the journey for the Commonwealth Baton, which will end up in Delhi next year. So, with athletics and sport running through my head that day, the cynic in me wondered whether Indian business actually supports sport – beyond Cricket.

We know of examples like Lakshmi Mittal supporting tennis stars, Vijay Mallya, TCS and ICICI being involved in Formula 1, but does support for athletics and other lesser publicised sports really run through the veins of India’s business leaders? In the UK, we have clear examples of corporate money from Aviva supporting athletics, is there an equivalent in India? Will the Commonwealth Games change this?

It was Dame Kelly who made the point most eloquently to me when she said that the benefits of supporting kids from the grassroots are huge. Without this investment, as a society we’re poorer for the simple reason that sports personalities have long been considered the best role models for future generations to emulate.

It’d be great to learn as to whether Indian businesses are opening up to supporting grass-roots sports. If you have a view, let me know.

The countdown begins.. for the Delhi 2010 Commonwealth Games

Have to say that the official countdown to the Commonwealth Games has gotten off to a fantastic start. Her Majesty, The Queen passed the baton onto the Indian President yesterday at Buckingham Palace, which was billed as a ‘first’ in the Games’ history as the baton had never been passed from one Head of State to another.

Actually, what was expected to be a damp squib of an event turned out to be a great show, with the forecourt of the Palace (on the “right” side of the famous gates that we peer through to take a look at the Palace) being used as a venue that accomodated the hoi poloi of Indian society and officals from the Commonwealth.

For me it was quite surreal to see kathak, bharatnatyam and other forms of Indian dance traditions alongside tabla, and sitar players in such a majestic environment. To top if off, when the Royal party arrived, the ceremonial troupe first played the Indian National Anthem – which seemed strange but another sign of India arriving – followed by ‘God Save the Queen’ – which we’ve sung on the terraces of our football stadia, but it truly felt odd humming ‘God Save Our Glorious Queen’ to the Queen!

The organisers had brought to the stage a phenomenal cast of sports stars that included Kapil Dev, Abhinav Bindra, Sania Mirza and the Flying Sikh – who ran for India many moons ago. On the British side, Dame Kelly Holmes, Lord Coe, Monty Panesar all lead the charge. They all took the baton out of the Palace and ran around the Victoria Memorial a few times and posed for video and photos – quite funnily at one point Kapil Dev had to hold Seb Coe back from overtaking Sania Mirza, who’s turn it was to carry the baton.

All in all a great enjoyable event and the British team’s given it all their weight. Let’s hope Suresh Kalmadi gets that Delhi needs to be ready for the games in a year’s time!