IPL commissioner Lalit Modi is ready for Saturday’s opening ceremony and said the speed of preparations should inspire FIFA in its struggles to organize football’s Confederations Cup in June and the 2010 World Cup.
The Twenty20 Indian Premier League was hastily moved out of India just over three weeks ago for security reasons as the dates clashed with general elections. But organizers believe they’ve met the logistical challenges of preparing eight stadiums at short notice, booking thousands of hotel rooms, and laying on extra flights into South Africa.
“FIFA has been working here for 8 years, we have been here for 22 days,” Modi said. “I hope they learn from us. We will have a carnival that we will talk about and remember.”
The eight-team, 59-match tournament will bring a touch of Bollywood glamor to South Africa as world cricket’s biggest names team up with movie stars. Indian megastar Shah Rukh Khan owns the Kolkata Knight Riders, while actresses Shilpa Shetty and Preity Zinta are the respective co-owners of the Rajasthan Royals and the Kings XI Punjab franchises.
“In this time in recession, the two things that won’t go out of style are entertainment and sport, and it is great for us,” Shetty said.
The players include leading test run-scorer Sachin Tendulkar (Mumbai Indians), former England captain Kevin Pietersen (Royal Challengers Bangalore), South Africa skipper Graeme Smith and former Australia legspinner Shane Warne (Rajasthan Royals).
“In India, cricket and film are religions and the blending of the two is quite exciting,” Zinta said.
The IPL is already the world’s richest cricket league and Modi hopes to emulate English football’s Premier League by attracting the very best players and a multinational array of supporters from all over the world.
Modi said hosting the tournament in South Africa was a “huge opportunity to build up the IPL as a global brand” and would bring in an additional 1.5 billion to 2 billion rands ($150-200 million) to the local economy.