Mohali match: Can Chandigarh’s infrastructre handle it?

March 27th, 2011 - 2:54 pm ICT by IANS  

Manmohan Singh Chandigarh, March 27 (IANS) With the high-voltage India-Pakistan match turning into a tool for cricket diplomacy between the two nations and a galaxy of VVIPs descending to witness the World Cup semi-final at Mohali, Chandigarh with its mere 2,000 rooms for accommodation is staring at a logistical nightmare, say officials.

With hotel rooms, government guest houses and all kinds of available accommodation already booked, authorities here are wondering how to manage the huge crowds.

Because for any cricket match in Mohali, 10 km away, it’s Chandigarh’s infrastructure that comes in to place.

Informed sources in the Chandigarh administration told IANS that they have been asked to be on the stand-by for the visit of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Pakistani counterpart Yusuf Raza Gilani on March 30.

“There is a strong possibility of Indian President (Pratibha Patil) attending the match. With her, two PMs, chief ministers, union ministers and host of other VVIPs and celebrities, Chandigarh is heading for a nightmare,” the official told IANS.

“The security paraphernalia, especially the elite SPG (Special Protection Group) personnel with the prime minister, will need several rooms. VIPs who had booked the rooms earlier will have to be offered regrets,” the official added.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his wife Gursharan Kaur are likely to stay at the Punjab Raj Bhawan - the Governor’s House, while President Pratibha Patil, if her visit is confirmed, will be put up at the adjoining Haryana Raj Bhawan.

With the Pakistani prime minister also confirming his visit, authorities will have to work out his stay, along with his entourage, in one of the top hotels.

The city’s hotels and other infrastructure are already overloaded and can hardly cater to any more arrivals.

The city has just 2,000 rooms in total, combining all hotels and guest houses.

The Indian and Pakistani teams are lodged at the Taj Hotel under a three-tier security ring. Top officials of the International Cricket Council (ICC), the Board for Control of Cricket in India (BCCI) and other match officials are stationed at Taj and the state-run Mountview Hotel — the city’s only five star property.

“The teams are staying with us. We are completely booked and cannot accommodate any more guests. We are ensuring that both teams have a great experience of their stay with us. We are making sure they do not miss anything food-wise,” Hotel Taj general manager Anil Malhotra said.

Accommodation is not the only thing that has the authorities worried.

The Chandigarh and Punjab Police have stretched their security resources to the limit.

They are guarding the Punjab Cricket Association (PCA) stadium at Mohali, 10 km from here, the Taj Hotel and also lining up security along the 15 km route that the cavalcade of vehicles of both teams take every time they move out of the hotel to go for practice sessions.

“We have created a three-tier security ring at the hotel where the players are staying. Their travel route is also sanitised,” Chandigarh’s Senior Superintendent of Police H.S. Doon said.

Chandigarh Police has deployed over 1,000 men in Mohali while the Punjab Police has deployed over 2,000 men, and once the VVIPs start coming, the deployment will be increased.

The PCA stadium, the venue for the March 30 encounter, too is under a big security umbrella. All roads within a vicinity of 1-2 km around the stadium will be blocked by the police Wednesday.

“Chandigarh does not have the infrastructure and the hotels to cater to this huge demand. I hope all goes well. The arrival of the VVIPs will further aggravate the situation,” a leading hotelier said.

Among other VVIPs likely to attend the match, the names of Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi, his sister and brother-in-law Priyanka Gandhi and Robert Vadra, union ministers, some chief ministers, a few Bollywood celebrities and many cricket greats are doing the rounds.

(Jaideep Sarin can be contacted at Jaideep.s@ians.in)

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