Delhi braces up for mega AOL event, despite opposition

New Delhi, March 9 (IANS) As one looks from the Delhi Noida Direct Flyway, it seems like a township under construction. As one moves closer, a massive stage sprawled over seven acres greets you.

On second thought, it seems as if a gladiatorial arena is getting ready for a historic combat, with seating arrangements for more than 11 lakh people daily and six towering floodlight masts focused down at the gigantic stage.

Ask the Art of Living Foundation’s organisers and they proudly say it is the biggest stage in the world, covering 3,34,358 square feet, almost 100 feet tall and a width of 1,200 feet. They say they hope it may find a place in Guinness World Records.

But for the National Green Tribunal (NGT), which finally gave the go ahead on Wednesday albeit with riders, the mega event wouldn’t have taken place.

The stage is meant for the three-day World Culture Festival from March 11 on the Yamuna flood plain, considered an eco-sensitive area.

By their own admission, the organisers say around 1,000 acres of land upstream of the DND elevated bridge and on the right bank of the Yamuna river is being used for the festival.

They also claim that around 35 lakh people are expected to attend the event. Earlier, it was said that 97 acres will be used for the festival.

“Around 8,000 musicians and 10,000 dancers will perform on the stage at a time. Participants from 155 countries will participate. I tried to represent ‘Pancha Bhoota’ (five elements of earth, water, fire, air and ether) in this massive stage,” said Nitin C. Desai, stage designer, who claims to have designed sets for films like ‘Lagaan’, ‘Devdas’, ‘Jodha Akbar’, ‘Tamas’ and ‘1942 – A Love Story’.

“More than 600 people are working daily to build the stage. It will be completed by tomorrow,” he adds.

In the festival area, one witnesses huge tracts of land being levelled with bulldozers and cranes, turning the entire area into a vast dust bowl. A number of tents and ramps have been set up for various purposes.

The army personnel were seen busy working tirelessly on two pontoon bridges built only for the festival. Hundreds of Delhi Police and Central Reserve Police Force personnel were also seen engaged in conducting inspections.

“We have built two bridges and each has a capacity of holding 40 tonnes (40,000 kgs),” said one of the army personnel.

A few workers were seen taking some time off after the day’s hard work. “About three lakh metres of carpet will be used for the festival,” said one of them.

One Praveen Sahu, who was given the responsibilty of installing the floodlights, said: “We have installed six high floodlight masts for the festival. Each of them has 36 bulbs (one bulb is of 2,000 watts).”

Art of Living spokesman Sanjay Kumar said: “We are expecting around 36,000 participants from different countries for the cultural events. We are organising this event to mark the 35th anniversary celebrations of The Art of Living Foundation. We are also expecting around 35 lakh people during the festival from across the world. Our primary aim is to promote ‘One World Family’.”

Hundreds of children and woman were alighting from the buses at the venue, each carrying a musical instrument. Asked the purpose of their visit, they said they were part of musical group ‘Symphony’ and were slated to perform at the event.

“We have come here to perform. About 25,000 performers from our group will perform during the event. We’ll play songs based on eight ‘ragas’, using 40 musical instruments,” said Akash, a resident of Rohini.

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