Sunday, April 25, 2010

Sri Lanka Ready To Roll Out The Red Carpet For Indian Mega Event

The glitterati of Indian Cinema are to flock to Colombo to dazzle the public in a few weeks, making Sri Lanka the place to be, come early June. One would even say that the combined forces of Shah Rukh Khan, Aishwarya Rai, Amitabh Bachchan, Abhishek Bachchan and 60 other A-listers more than makes up for the non-appearance of Akon a couple of weeks back.

Ambassador of IIFA, Amitabh Bachchan or ‘Big B’ as he is known, announced to the world last week that Sri Lanka has been chosen to host the International Indian Film Academy (IIFA) Awards 2010 at a press conference held at the Cinnamon Grand. He seemed quite impressed by Sri Lanka when he flew down for just a day last week, although the only places he actually saw were the airport, the Independence Square, the Cinnamon Grand and Temple Tress.

What would be even more interesting to watch than megastars Shah Rukh Khan and Aishwarya Rai is the metamorphosis the Sri Lanka Tourist Board has planned for the Sugathadasa Indoor Stadium, the venue for the awards ceremony. By May 27, the place is to be transformed into something that could rival the Venetian Hotel in Macau, which is where the IIFA awards were held last year. It would definitely be a sight worth seeing.

Simply obtaining permission to host this event was quite a task – Sri Lanka faced some stiff competition from Australia, Korea, South Africa and Ireland but finally came out on top in the bidding war, although it was announced earlier this year that Seoul, South Korea would host the awards ceremony.

“To be honest, many people thought that Sri Lanka would never be able to get this event, that it is too big for us, that we won’t be able to handle it. I mean we don’t have infrastructure or the money required; we don’t have any of the basic requirements actually”, admitted Managing Director, Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau, Dileep Mudadeniya quite frankly.

IIFA, although completely unknown to the majority of the Sri Lankan public until last week is in fact a huge operation and the Sri Lanka Tourist Board along with its sponsors have equally huge plans for the city of Colombo. The complete renovation of the Sugathadasa Indoor Stadium has to be the most ambitious plan on the cards. The stadium, which has remained untouched for the past 20 years, is now undergoing extensive work to meet the international standards an event of this scale demands.

It has been determined that the project is being funded by the government, how much it will cost though, is a well-hidden figure. “We have been instructed not to divulge this information to the media”, is what the chief contractor of the renovation project, Kumar had to say when asked to give an estimate of the total cost.

A city development and beautification project spearheaded by the Colombo Municipal Council (CMC) has kicked off to prepare the city for the influx of the creme de la creme of Indian cinema and the thousands of fans that are expected.

“It is our responsibility to make sure the city looks good, the people visiting the country must be impressed – the road network needs to be improved, roads resurfaced especially the ones leading to the hotels and various venues,” said Chief City Commissioner, Omar Kamil.

The Galle Face Green will also host a night bazaar over the IIFA weekend where hotels and apparel factories will be encouraged to set up stalls to cater to the Indians who will be in the city as well as to the locals who would be gathered in the area, hoping to catch a glimpse of any celebrity. CMC budgetary allocations will fund all of this although the Commissioner was hopeful that the private sector could be harnessed to finance these various projects.

The partners for the event are the Colombo Hotels Association, the Ministry of Sports, the State Engineering Corporation, the Ceylon Electricity Board and the Ministry of Defence — who are in charge of various different aspects of the event.

The CEB for instance, have offered to bear the lighting costs of the project, the Ministry of Defence will be handling the celebrities’ security for which a security plan has already been finalized and put into action. The Colombo Hotels Association have offered to provide all hotel rooms needed to house the various guests for free, as well as SriLankan Airlines who have offered all the tickets needed free of charge.

Even with international sponsors such as Star TV and media conglomerate Videocom, it is quite apparent that a great deal of the costs for this event will have to be borne by the Sri Lankan Government.

“This is a very expensive exercise but our sponsors, that is the CEB, Ministry of Defence and other ministries will be providing us with the necessary finance. The global sponsors for the IIFA awards will also facilitate us with more funds but there will be no big sponsorships from any private Sri Lankan company,” explained Mudadeniya.

The IIFA weekend, which will go on from June 3 to June 5, will comprise of several events and will finally end with the main awards ceremony. The weekend will kick off with a fashion show that will be held at the BMICH followed by an IIFA global business forum at the Hilton, a global movie premiere and party, and an event that would definitely be worth seeing – a Twenty20 cricket match by Indian and Sri Lankan celebrities and cricketers at the SSC. It has been decided that none other than Shah Rukh Khan himself will captain the Indian team.

The Sunday Leader, Colombo - Sri Lanka


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