Updated: February 25, 2021 7:40:15 am
THE WORLD’S largest cricket stadium hosted its first day of bigtime cricket with a stream of VVIPs, key announcements, a bunch of wickets — and a new name.
The 130,000-seat arena at Motera in the Prime Minister’s home state of Gujarat, which was inaugurated Wednesday by President Ramnath Kovind, will be known as Narendra Modi Cricket Stadium and be a part of the Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel Sports Enclave.
Known earlier as Sardar Patel Stadium, or Motera stadium, before the massive redevelopment, the new name was revealed only when President Kovind opened a digital plaque, which said that the “Narendra Modi stadium” has been inaugurated.
This is the first such public structure to be named after Prime Minister Modi in the country, with the Gujarat government confirming later that it would be called Narendra Modi Cricket Stadium.
In his address, the President credited Modi with conceptualising the new stadium when he was the chief minister of Gujarat and headig the Gujarat Cricket Association. “India is called the powerhouse or hub of cricket. So it is apt that the world’s biggest stadium is in our country,” he said.
Union Home Minister Amit Shah described the occasion as “a golden day in the history of sports in India”. “President Kovind has conducted the bhoomi pujan of the Sardar Vallabhbhai Sports Enclave, which will also encompass the newly built stadium. This will also be the country’s largest sports complex,” he said.
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Shah said that the “sports complex at Motera of which Narendra Modi stadium is a part and the new sports complex at Naranpura will help Ahmedabad to host any international event like the Commonwealth Games, Asian Games or Olympics”. “After this infrastructure comes up, Ahmedabad will be known as a sports city,” he said.
As Shah spoke, among those present on the dais were his son and BCCI secretary Jay Shah, and Rajya Sabha MP Parimal Nathwani and his son and Gujarat Cricket Association (GCA) Vice President Dhanraj Nathwani.
Gujarat Deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel also spoke at the event. Later, responding to criticism from the Opposition Congress that renaming the stadium was “an insult to Sardar Patel”, Patel said there was no question of the stadium being renamed. “It was always famous as Motera Stadium. That stadium has been named as Narendrabhai Modi Cricket Stadium by GCA today,” he said.
The proposed Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel Sports Enclave at Motera will cost Rs 4,600 crore of which the government will invest Rs 3,200 crore while Rs 1,400 crore will be obtained through PPP mode with the state to provide 236 acres of land.
Shah said that a new Rs 458-crore, 18-acre sports complex in the Naranpura locality of Ahmedabad will also be built. According to him, the sports complex and the stadium will be connected with 650 schools of Ahmedabad and Gandhinagar that do not have their own playgrounds for students to have joint physical training sessions once a week.
According to officials, the proposed enclave will be an integrated complex spread over 215 acres, with venues for over 20 Olympic disciplines, including athletics, football, aquatics, basketball, tennis, hockey and badminton. The facility, with 93 lakh sq-ft of built-up space, will be able to host 2.5 lakh visitors during an event day.
The key venues at this complex will include a 50,000-seat athletics-football stadium with a 400-m track. It will have a 1.2-lakh sq-ft indoor aquatics centre with 50m and 25m indoor and outdoor pools; a 15,000-seat field hockey stadium, 5,000-seat cycling velodrome, 5,000-seat tennis stadium and a boating centre. It will also have an indoor area that can seat 10,000-12,000 persons for multiple spectator sports.
Additional facilities like an athletes’ village with 3,000 apartments, administrative offices, hotels, retail and food courts have also been planned.
Union Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju, who was also present at the event, said: “Ahmedabad is going to become a sports city in the near future.”
On the ground, meanwhile, the opening day of the day-night pink ball Test lived up to the hype with England opting to bat first and getting bowled out for just 112 — and home star Axar Patel stealing the show with a six-wicket haul. In reply, India were 99 for three.
Wednesday marked another landmark, too. Ishant Sharma was playing his 100th Test and President Kovind presented him with a plaque, and Home Minister Shah a commemorative cap.
India captain Virat Kohli, meanwhile, was all praise for the stadium. “It’s an outstanding stadium, outstanding thing for Indian cricket and great to see for the world as well,” he said at the toss.
In the imposing stands, the crowd build-up was steady — from around 20,000-odd fans at the start to around 40,000 as the floodlights came on.
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