'Salt Lake Stadium at par with any world-class venue'
Kolkata: The refurbished Salt Lake Stadium, which will host the final of the FIFA U-17 World Cup, was on Sunday handed over to the event's Local Organisning Committee.
Giving it a 10/10 rating, LOC tournament director Javier Ceppi said the revamped stadium is at par with any world-class venue that has hosted a FIFA World Cup final.
"If you ask me it looks like a museum, be the entrance or the inside. Or like the teams said it looks the lobby of a five-star hotel," Ceppi said, thanking Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee for getting the work done in two and half years' time.
"You see and the stadium looks nothing like it used to before. That's because the stadium needed to be fit to host a World Cup final, the most important football match to be hosted in India's history."
"They (Bengal government) took the challenge. This stadium now can be compared to other stadiums in the world that have hosted a FIFA World Cup final." The revamp of the stadium, formally known as Vivekananda Yuva Bharati Krirangan, which was taken up on February 1, 2015, cost the state government more than Rs 100 crore.
Banerjee will formally inaugurate the stadium from Uttar Kanya, the branch Secretariat of Government of West Bengal in Siliguri, North Bengal, on September 12.
Originally a 1,20,000 capacity stadium, the YBK is now reduced to an official 66,687 for the World Cup after FIFA enforced a guideline following a study with the Sports Grounds Safety Authority of the UK.
"It's not a single person more. That's the capacity of the stadium for a safe evacuation for every part and every spectator of the stadium within eight minutes," Ceppi said.
However, the stadium can accommodate about 80,000.
The stadium is 98 percent complete and Ceppi said it's their responsibility to take it to the next level.
"Now, we need the transition from a museum to a football stadium to host the World Cup. It's not major work but just two or three things," Ceppi said.
He, however, refused to compare the YBK with the other five venues which will hold matches during the October 6-28 tournament. "All six of them are like our kids, it's impossible to decide the best. I'm not being politically correct, but if you go to every single stadium in country the amount of work has gone is fantastic."
"With certain touch-ups it would be a fantastic facility operationally as well. It's not only about looks but substance as well. It does look like a 10/10. Bengalis must feel proud about the stadium now," Ceppi said after principal secretary (sports) Saeed Ahmed Bawa signed the official document to hand over the stadium.
"The handover means we take certain responsibility and certain decision making with regards to last phase of rectification and work so it becomes fully operational for tournament," Ceppi said.
Work on outer areas like a subway, the Media and VIP Tribune are among other things that are in progress.
Sports Minister Aroop Biswas said their government has borne the entire cost of the stadium revamp.
"101 per cent of the cost is borne by the state government. FIFA never allots money, whatever work you're seeing is funded by the Government of West Bengal," Biswas said.
"It was an old structure. From time to time, we had to take the expert advice of IIT Kharagur and sometimes BESU (Indian Institute of Engineering Science and Technology, Shibpur), so till it's fully over we cannot exactly say the amount but it's estimated to be more than Rs 100 crore."
Principal secretary, PWD, Indeevar Pandey, was the man- in-charge of the stadium revamp and he conceded having more than 105 meetings to bring up this transformation.
"We have had 105 meetings here with intricate details with chief minister directly overseeing the progress. That we are chosen as the hosts for the final makes it the best. Nothing further needs to be said," Pandey said. With agency inputs