Saturday, January 19, 2008

All things foreign!

It is accepted that we Indians lack civic sense, have absolutely no road manners, atrocious and belligerent driving skills or the lack of it, pollution, over crowding, chaos, nothing working.......ok....ok.......yes! yes! ....we all know our pitfalls and faults. And at the bottom of this pile lies our stadiums and sports facilities. What facilities? Do we have a stadium anywhere in India worth mentioning? You may well ask!

"Things are so well organised" says the aunty who has gone on innumerable "foreign jaunts". "So civilised" says the cousin from those hallowed foreign shores.

After every cricket match, one hears of the lack of public toilets, infrastructure, poor management of the crowds and everything else that can be criticised.

So now, let me enlighten you about how a sporting event is conducted in those hallowed "foreign lands".

We had the privilege of attending a Formula 1 grand prix race in Monza, Italy. Now Formula 1 is the richest sport in the world earning billions of dollars from sponserships, television rights, merchandise and not to mention cash paying spectators.

We were all excited and logged onto the Formula 1 website to book our race tickets. Goody goody goody! All straightforward so far, we chose the seats we wanted, had a mild heart attack at the cost of each ticket - (converted into Indian rupees it practically felt like daylight robbery). We had been warned that the Italians were thugs of the first water, after all they were the originators of the Mafia weren't they? So we craftily asked my brother in law in Germany to make the payment in Euros and that we would repay him in rupees here in India. Who knows what tricks the Italians may get upto with our Indian credit card! The tickets would be delivered by courier to him in Germany.

2 months down the line and we still hadn't heard about a thing. We assumed that they would do their own thing and didn't pursue the matter much. Sure enough, the tickets were sent to Germany at the end of the third month. But how long did it take? 3 long months! But ssshhh........they have a method. Foreign after all! remember?

So now, we started our preparations in earnest for our travel. Got our airline and hotels booked and visas were obtained. We again refered to the Monza race website and tried to get details on how to reach the autodrome from downtown Milan, where we were based. They had various options of transport - trains, buses and of course cars.

We assumed that things would work like clock work, after all we were going to a "foreign event", weren't we?

Imagine our plight in Monza. Nobody spoke English for starters - fair enough - we have travelled enough in Europe to understand that they are very fanatical about language and will speak their native tongue no matter where and how.

No information anywhere about those blasted trains that should get you to the autodrome . We luckily stumbled across some Finnish fans (Supporting Raikonnen who is from Finland) racing towards a train in Milan Centrale. We ran with them and hopped on to that train. It could have gone to Paris for all we knew.

Once we reached the autodrome, nobody told us there was a 5 kms (yes! 5 kms from the train station) to reach our stands!!!! No information was given anywhere about that! You can imagine the plight of 2 overweight, out of shape individuals faced with the prospect of a 5km trek in the hot Italian sun!!! good lord!

None of the stewards knew where our stand was or how far it was. Again no one spoke English. They just stood around stylishly (the famous Italian style my friends) and talked on their cell phones. We panted and wheezed our way to the stands after almost an hour and a half of trekking.

Those seats were just concrete steps on which we all just plonked ourselves on. The toilets were miles away. But we did get to see the race and enjoy it.

Now we had to start the 5 km trek back all over again to get to the train station (we learnt that there were no buses to this event - which means the info on the official website was a lie!!!).

Toilets were now all completely dirty. Almost the whole crowd was now drunk. Rubbish cans overflowing with beer cans and food packets. Drunk people using trees to answer the call of nature.

Yes my friends! peeing on the road! And after an endless walk, we were all crammed into trains for our journey back to Milan ala Mumbai ishtyle!

Who said such things happened only in India! And what made it all so funny? We paid 310 Euros per ticket!!!!!

Now when somebody mentions all those ills in a stadium - I can only smirk and think of Monza!

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