There is an age-old saying: “the fans make the sport”. The bottom line is that sports needs fans, and it’s the fans who make the sport what it is. In football, a team playing at their home ground count on the home support to cheer them on, and the fans are called the unofficial “12th man”.
It’s not that this was the first motorsport event India was hosting. The country successfully hosted three Formula One races between 2011 and 2013 at the Buddh International Circuit in Noida, Uttar Pradesh. The circuit received positive reviews and was regarded as one of the better ones on the calendar while the race took place.
Post 2013, however, the Uttar Pradesh government and Formula One had a dispute over tax issues, which led to the race not returning to the country again. However, the circuit is set to host the Bharat Grand Prix, a MotoGP race, in September later this year, which will be its first elite-level competition since the 2013 Indian Grand Prix.
To take a deeper look at the mismanagement that occurred at the Hyderabad E-Prix, SportsKhabri spoke to Nishanth (name changed as per request to protect privacy) about his experience of attending India’s first-ever Formula E race.
Nishanth had booked his race tickets via online ticket-booking platform BookMyShow, which was the official ticketing partner of the event. On booking his ticket, Nishanth received a booklet from BookMyShow, which had other information about the event, including Google Maps links to the gates. These links that were sent by BookMyShow had a dead link for the gate (Gate 2), from which Nishanth was supposed to enter. The multiple traffic diversions and barricades created for the event didn’t help Nishanth and the other people heading to Gate 2 either.
Once Nishanth eventually entered—through Gate 2—to head towards Premium Grandstand 6, there was more confusion and chaos. (Premium Grandstand and Ace Grandstand were, respectively, the second-most and the most expensive tickets available for the event.)
On the event booklet that BookMyShow had sent, entry was written to be made via Gate 2, but the volunteers at Gate 2 insisted Nishanth to head in from Gate 6. He managed to find his way to Premium Grandstand and asked the volunteers there for the food coupons and premium goody bags, which were mentioned on the BookMyShow website post booking the ticket. The on-ground volunteers, though, had no clue about any food coupons or goody bags for the Premium Grandstand audience. After discussion among themselves, they told Nishanth and the others that the goody bags and food coupons would come and were delayed; Nishanth never got either of those.
“The washrooms were in a terrible state and had no provisions for washing hands. A huge barrel with water and a mug inside was the provision for washing hands. The entire set-up was extremely unhygienic,” Nishanth said when he spoke to us about the toilet facilities for the fans.
But Nishanth wasn’t the only one who suffered an ordeal. After speaking with several others who attended the event, SportsKhabri also learnt that fans were asked to report to the gate by 07:30 AM, when it was announced the gates would open, but they had to wait for almost an hour as the bands weren’t ready yet.
Nishanth also told us that the event booklet sent by BookMyShow had information about six gates, while there were actually seven gates at the event. The booklet did not have information about the seventh gate. What surprised Nishanth even more is the fact that there was a Gate 7 banner at the metro station that had three Grandstands marked in them, but in the booklet provided to him, those were in Gate 2.
Another fan sustained an injury on her leg and had to wait a good half-an-hour for medical help to arrive. The ambulances at the event didn’t have a first aid kit either.
Fans who were in Ace Grandstand also complained about not enough chairs being available. They even complained about not enough water being available for drinking, especially after fans were asked not to bring bottles of capacity over 100 ml.
Another issue raised by multiple people was the poor crowd management from the event officials and management, which left a few fans scared and fearing a potential stampede, while they were also left unhappy at the fact they weren’t allowed to attend the podium celebrations. Various complaints about the air conditioning not working and having to fight one’s way to the seats—even at VIP stands—were also received.
Another fan who shared his experience about the event with us was Shubham Sahu, who travelled almost 1,000 kilometres to attend India’s first-ever Formula E race. He shared his experience: “Since the race was being held on the streets around NTR Gardens and Hussain Sagar, the stands were built on the edges of the roads inside the NTR Gardens, but to enter the stand we had to go through a small bridge over the circuit, which was very narrow and created chaos while exiting the stands when the race ended. It took us 45 minutes to get out of the stands.”
Sahu also brought up a few points that he thought the organisers ought to keep in mind should there be a race in the future again: “Make the bridges much wider from where we enter the stands to avoid stampedes. To enter the stands, we had to pass through a narrow bridge over the circuits. They [the organisers] should make more bridges or make it wider. The fan village should be somewhere in the centre so that everyone can enjoy the event. It was on another end [during this event], so we had to walk three kilometres. Stands should also have a shade because the sun was unbearable.”
Beside the shortcomings, Sahu did have positives to mention about the event as well. “My first-time experience went pretty well. The experience of getting to see a Formula E car from this close, I would say it was paisa wasool [worth the money]. I did not expect an electric car to be as fast,” he said. “The fan village held a concert, and we also got to take pictures with the cars and trophies.”
Coming back to the mismanagement, it wasn’t limited only to the race day. The day before the race, on Friday, February 10, there was a security breach during the First Practice session. Just ahead of the practice session, civilian vehicles managed to enter the race track and security barricades were removed, which shocked the teams and drivers as they were preparing to head out on the track. No accidents occurred, fortunately, as the session was yet to start and there were no cars on track, though the first practice session was delayed.
The organisers of the Hyderabad E-Prix put up a very glittery image of the event online, with multiple celebrities promoting the event and even national superstars from the world of sports, cinema and business having come together to attend the event. Unfortunately, in the end, in trying to highlight all the glitter and present the event as a glamorous one, the people who make the sport — the fans — were neglected.
Most recently, during the Hyderabad E-Prix, President of the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA), Mohammed Ben Sulayem, said that India was an untapped market for motor racing and that there were plenty of possibilities. While that is true, there is a long road that needs to be walked before India can regularly and successfully host Formula E, Formula One or other motorsport events.
The Greenko Hyderabad E-Prix might have been the country’s first-ever Formula E race, but for the majority who attended, it is one that they would want to forget.