Giant indoor stadium set to host mega Africa summit

New Delhi, July 8 (IANS) With New Delhi set to host 54 African heads of state and government and their large entourages this October, a giant indoor stadium built for the Asian Games in 1982 will play host to this grand conclave.

According to top officials dealing with the preparations, Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself is pretty much happy with the venue after he launched his pet “Digital India Week” here earlier this month at the the capacious Indira Gandhi Indoor Stadium attended by Who’s Who of India Inc.

The Third India-Africa Forum Summit is also set to be the largest gathering of foreign leaders in India since the Non-Aligned Summit here in 1983 and the Commonwealth Heads of Government Summit the same year and officials feel the venue so chosen is the best suited for such a gathering, from the organisation and security points of view.

“This stadium is spread over 100 acres. It is centrally air-conditioned and has a floor area of around 18,000 sq mts and comfortably seat 15,000 people and even more,” an official deputed for the arrangements told IANS, but requested anonymity as he was not authorised to speak.

“There is also this proposal to erect a large stage inside the stadium on which our prime minister and all the African leaders will be able to comfortably stand together in a semi-circle for the customary photo-opp,” the official added.

Below the stage, separate desks for each African head and behind that chairs will seat delegation members. Finally behind these high-ranking ministers and officials, provisions would be made for the accompanying staff, the official said.

“The Ministry of External Affairs is looking at seven-eight delegates from each country.”

Named after former prime minister Indira Gandhi, it is the largest indoor sports arena in India, built by the Indian government for the Asian Games in 1982. It was renovated for the 2010 Commonwealth Games, especially with a new velodrome and airconditioning.

According to knowledgeable sources, the logistics has already been taken care of since the Communications and IT Ministry had started working for that a forenight before the “Digital India Week” and that event was held without any major glitch.

“We wanted it to be a world class programme,” Communications and IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad had remarked after the “Digital Inia Week” launch, adding the entire team had burnt midnight oil to ensure its success. “It was a mamoth task, no doubt.”

Sources said the event also served as a dress rehersal for the big international event, from the logistical and security perspectives.

“There was a multi-layered security. First two layers were covered by the Special Protection Group, which protects prime ministers,” said Deputy Commissioner of Police (Central Range), Parmaditya, who uses only one name.

“The third layer was covered by prime minister’s other security, while the fourth was handled by our Delhi Police personnel. For the outer security, I was myself present with top officers. We had also deployed the Delhi Traffic Police to oversee the parking,” Parmaditya told IANS.

Another Delhi Police official said on the condition of anonymity that the information to arrange a tight and multi-layer security at the stadium was shared with around 10 days before the event.

“Our special commissioner of police for law and order (Deepak Mishra) was himself monitoring all the arrangements along with two joint commissioners and three deputy commissioner,” the official said.

Asked if similar arrangements will be made for the upcoming India-Africa Summit, Parmaditya said: “I am not yet aware about the summit. But, we are ready to handle it with ease if it is being held at the Indira Gandhi Indoor Stadium.”

The search for a suitable venue ended at the IGIS after all the five-star hotels in the National Capital Region were rejected because none of their halls could accomodate so many leaders and their delegations at one time.

Even the Vigyan Bhavan, which was built in 1956 and has been in the past the venue of international conferences, was found inadequate this time due to heightened security and logistical requirements of current times.

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