Will Kerala’s snake boat sail down the Thames?April 13th, 2010 - 4:12 pm ICT by IANS
By Sanu George
Thiruvananthapuram, April 13 (IANS) Kerala’s famed snake boats attract thousands to the annual boat race in Punnamada Lake. Now, if all goes well, one of the over 100-ft-long boats may take to the waters of the Thames River as part of a trial run of the inaugural ceremony of the 2012 London Olympics.
The huge boat unique to Kerala along with around 120 oarsmen would be showcased June 9 at an event attended by the Queen.
The proposal to include the snake boat in the ceremony along with boats from other parts of the world was mooted by Keraleeyam, a cultural organisation that has members in the state and across the globe, including Britain, said state Sports Minister M. Vijayakumar.
“It would be a trial run with important dignitaries like the Queen witnessing the event. They approached us and we decided to do our bit. We have been told by Malayalis coordinating the event in London that the first round of sanctions have come from the British government,” Vijayakumar told IANS.
But there are some stumbling blocks like the logistics involved in shipping the boat and the oarsmen apart from the required funds.
“The state government has in principle decided to lend its support and the sports, industry and tourism ministries have decided to bear a portion of the cost. We have forwarded a letter to the union tourism minister to help us in this endeavour. They have the resources and we have requested that the event be included under the Incredible India (tourism) campaign. We are now waiting to hear from them,” Vijayakumar said.
Organisers working towards the event here say it would cost more than Rs.5 million to ship the snake boat from here to London.
“A snake boat now costs more than Rs.3 million and since it would cost close to Rs.5 million to transport it, we have decided that we will gift this snake boat to Britain after the trial run is over,” the sports minister added.
If the trial run goes well, the boat race could be included in the inaugural ceremony of the 2012 Olympics.
A snake boat’s length is usually anywhere between 120 to 140 feet. The popular annual race held in Kerala is associated with former prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru’s visit to the state in 1952 when a boat-pageant accompanied him on his trip from Kottayam to Alappuzha.
Its origin was an impromptu race conducted in Nehru’s honour. Nehru was thrilled by the performance of the oarsmen and jumped into a snake boat.
On returning to New Delhi, Nehru donated a silver trophy, a replica of a snake boat placed on a wooden abacus with an inscription and his signature. And this is the trophy that the winner gets in the Nehru Trophy Boat Race held at Alappuzha every year.
Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) legislator C.K. Sadasivan, a former coach and captain of the Kainankary Boat Club that won a record 12 times at the Nehru Boat Race in the 1970s and 1980s, said the snake boat being presented on the Thames would be a huge recognition for the state.
“I don’t think it would be a problem to get a snake boat and 120 oarsmen to do duty at the Thames river. As organisers of the Nehru Trophy Boat Race Society, we will extend full support to this and if needed we can select the best oarsmen available to be sent to London,” Sadasivan told IANS.
Kerala’s snake boat being rowed down the Thames river could become a reality if the central government also agrees to chip in and coordinate with the state government and Keraleeyam for the event.
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Tags: 2012 london olympics, boat race, boat sail, british government, dignitaries, endeavour, inaugural ceremony, incredible india tourism, oarsmen, sanu, snake boat, snake boats, sports industry, state government, state sports, thames river, thiruvananthapuram, tourism campaign, tourism minister, vijayakumar