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Time to make German pals

While remnants of winter reluctantly pack off, soccer heat compensates for everything, writes Varupi Jain.

india Updated: Jun 13, 2006 22:27 IST
BERLIN DIARY | Varupi Jain
BERLIN DIARY | Varupi Jain

While the remnants of winter reluctantly pack off from Germany, the soccer heat seems to make up for everything.

As for India, the month of May saw India's enormous presence through the celebration of Tagore's birthday while we, once again, remain out of the FIFA World Cup 2006.

Germany celebrated Tagore's birthday in style. Inspired by the values of universalism and humanism for which Tagore stood, the students, teachers and management formally changed the name of a Berlin high school to "Tagore School".

Among the distinguished guests present were the Indian Ambassador Meera Shankar, Municipal Councillor for school administration, Mrs Koehnke, members of the Indian community, writers and many local prominent citizens.

A Tagore bust, donated by Government of India through the Indian Council for Cultural Relations(ICCR) was installed in the school premises.

While doing a project on great international personalities two years ago, the school students came across the work of Tagore.

Some of the students and teachers got involved in serious research and celebrated an "India Day" in September 2004 with a series of lectures, cultural programs and presentations on Tagore.

Following a debate stretching over a year, the body of students and teachers finally decided on the name "Tagore School".

At a formal ceremony this May, German students presented songs, music and a mock interview with Tagore. Members of the Indian community presented Tagore songs in Bengali and German and also read poetry.

In her speech, the Indian Ambassador Mrs Meera Shankar recalled Tagore's immense contribution to the field of art, music, literature and theatre in India.

She further stated that the philosophy of humanism practiced and propagated by Tagore made him a world citizen. "Today, Tagore does not belong to India alone, he belongs to the whole world," she said.

It's party time!

I grabbed a handful of chocolate footballs neatly perched on a bowl at the counter while my luggage was being weighed at Frankfurt airport recently.

Only to find a bigger chocolate carved in football mould accompanying the coffee in LH 760. Everything in Germany is splashed with the FIFA logos, it is soccer mania at its best -- at times so exaggeratedly etched out all around you that it hardly gives you a breather in public spaces.

All that notwithstanding, the World Cup has done only good particularly to the cities where matches will be held. For instance, the city of Leipzig alone planned to invest around 91.4 million euros in equity capital.

Of that 21.1 million euros were spent on building measures in the stadium. The Zentralstadion (Central Stadium), where the Netherlands won against Serbia-Montenegro this past Sunday, was constructed as a stadium for the FIFA World Cup 2006 to the strict conditions of the FIFA. It has a seating capacity of 45,000.

A further 14.7 million euros went into building measures in the stadium's surroundings (eg an athletics arena, festival ground, car park, renovation of buildings in front of the stadium, peripheral development, ambulance services etc) as well as 51 million euros into measures for transport infrastructure/public transport.

An additional 4.56 million euros are costs directly resulting from the event such as the FIFA Confederations Cup Germany 2005, the drawing of the FIFA World Cup groups, security measures, FIFA Fan Fest 2006 (Fans' Party), Host City Dressing, the supporting programs, marketing and publicity work.

According to Leipzig's Mayor Burkhard Jung, "these are investments in the future of the City of Leipzig. The improved framework, the transport infrastructure or the Zentralstadion, for example, create better living conditions and will be profitable for Leipzig in the long-term.

It represents a giant leap in development for Leipzig that we could put these measures in place from the end of 2003 to now".

Leipzig expects as many as 300,000 visitors from the city, Germany and across the globe to the Fan Fest to be held for a month (June 9 - July 9 2006) in the heart of the city at Augustusplatz. As the fans watch the matches live on the giant screens installed at Augustusplatz, they will also have a chance to live through, among others, the 56 FIFA parties which promise to be a crescendo of sport, culture, music and culinary delights. Indeed, Leipzig is true to the FIFA slogan -- 'a time to make friends'.

Sadly, India is simply missing at the longest and the most expensive party in the history of Germany. Remember, the last time India came anywhere close to participation in FIFA World Cup was in 1950 when India was invited to play in Brazil.

India had to turn down the invite because FIFA made it mandatory for all to play in boots and the Indians would only play barefoot!

First Published: Jun 13, 2006 13:23 IST