US President Donald Trump will inaugurate the world’s largest cricket stadium when he arrives in Ahmedabad, the home base of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, on Monday at the start of a two-day visit aimed at smoothing ties strained by trade disputes.
Making his first official trip to the world’s largest democracy, Trump is also expected to visit the humble abode of Mahatma Gandhi in Ahmedabad.
The leaders of China, Japan and Israel have all visited Ahmedabad since Modi became prime minister.
It is the biggest city in Gujarat, the western state where Modi made his mark as chief minister before his party swept to power in 2014.
If his Indian hosts can help it, Trump probably won’t see a slum as they’ve ordered for a 400m wall to be built along his route to block the view of where poor people live.
Authorities in Ahmedabad expect to spend around Rs800mn to Rs850mn ($11-12mn) on preparations for the visit by the American president that is likely to last around three hours, two government officials with direct knowledge of the plans said.
The sum is equivalent to about 1.5% of the annual budget for the home ministry in Gujarat.
Security-related costs, with more than 12,000 police officers expected to be deployed, will account for almost half the expense, said the officials, who declined to be named as they are not authorised to speak publicly about the visit.
Ahmedabad municipal commissioner Vijay Nehra, the city’s top civic official, said that authorities had already spent around Rs300mn ($4.2mn) on widening roads and improving infrastructure around the new cricket stadium.
With capacity for 110,000 spectators, the Motera Stadium will dislodge the Melbourne Cricket Ground as the world’s largest cricket stadium.
“Eighteen roads of about 20km in length from Ahmedabad Airport to Motera Stadium have been widened or re-laid,” Nehra said, adding that the improvements had been planned before Trump’s visit was confirmed.
A further Rs60mn ($840,000) will go on “beautification” of the city, said Nehra, including erecting the wall to spare Trump’s view.
Ashok Brahmbhatt, secretary of Gujarat Cricket Association, which owns the Motera Stadium set to be opened by Trump, said it would also spend tens of millions of rupees during the event.
Nehra tweeted on Sunday that more than 100,000 participants had registered so far to greet Trump as he heads from the airport to the city centre.
Trump said last week Modi had promised “millions and millions” of people would line his route.
Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani yesterday visited the stadium to inspect the security arrangements.
“It is a delight and honour for the state as well as for the nation, as two of the biggest global leaders, US President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be sharing the same stage at the Motera Stadium which we are eagerly awaiting,” said Rupani.
The programme’s theme has been named ‘Namaste Trump’ (welcome Trump) where people in large numbers will be welcoming the US president, said the chief minister.
“All the arrangements regarding safety and security, parking, seating arrangements, food and water, the entry and exit gates have been planned and everything is in order. The high officials of the state administration and the Gujarat Cricket Association office bearers are reviewing the entire preparations for the event,” said Rupani.
“It is a matter of pride for Gujarat as the US president will be flying here to Ahmedabad directly from Washington,” he added.
On Monday, a C-17 Globemaster transport plane carrying security gadgets arrived at the airport.
The plane carried various security equipment including a security car, sniper units, fire safety equipment and spy cameras among other hi-tech equipment.
Four more such planes are expected to arrive at the airport by Saturday. Two other planes will also arrive along with the Air Force One bringing Trump, and also carrying a bullet-proof vehicle for his use.
A team of 18 officials from the US Secret Service inspected the security arrangements at the stadium on Monday.
American agencies have set up a control room in the stadium.
Trump may also visit the famous Taj Mahal monument in Agra, and all leave for police officers in that city has been cancelled.
The president’s visit may, however, hit the 10-day long annual Taj Mahotsav festival, tourism industry leaders said.
Security concerns will make it difficult for people to visit the fair and move freely in the sensitive area, hotel owners said.
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