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 India’s independence hero 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, where Modi made his mark as chief minister before BJP 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 400-meter wall to be built along his route to block the view of where poor people live.
Authorities in Ahmedabad expect to spend around Rs. 80 crore – 85 crore ($11-12 million) 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 told.
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 authorized to speak publicly about the visit.
Ahmedabad municipal commissioner Vijay Nehra, the city’s top civic official, told Reuters that authorities had already spent around 300 million rupees on widening roads and improving infrastructure around the new cricket stadium. With capacity for 1,10,000 spectators, the Motera Stadium will dislodge the Melbourne Cricket Ground as the world’s largest cricket stadium.
“Eighteen roads of about 20 kilometers (12 miles) 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 60 million Indian rupees ($840,000) will go on “beautification” of the city, added Nehra, including erecting the wall to spare Trump’s view.
Ashok Brahmbhatt, secretary of the 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 center. Trump said last week Modi had promised “millions and millions” of people would line his route.