DUBAI // Thousands of Indian expatriates braced themselves for a seven-hour wait in temperatures peaking at 45ºC to hear prime minister Narendra Modi’s speech at Dubai Cricket Stadium.
Tens of thousands descended on the Sports City venue for a free night of live music and traditional Indian dancing ahead of Mr Modi’s speech.
Traffic was nose to nose, backing up to the E11. The stadium concourse swelled with crowds from as early as noon to get in to see the event or watch it on big screens outside the stadium.
Every spare patch of ground became a parking spot as streams of buses ferried crowds as close to the stadium as possible. The authorities were more than ready for the expected crowd of 75,000, with 330 stewards and more than 100 police and security officers in position.
A few minor casualties, succumbing to dehydration in the heat, were quickly seen to by one of the 16 teams of paramedics or eight doctors on standby.
Sandeep Nair, a 22-year-old engineer from Kerala, had travelled from Abu Dhabi to the event. “We feel someone like Mr Modi can take our country forward,” he said.
Mr Modi was received by Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, which “shows you the kind of man he is”, said Mr Nair. “It took me four hours to get here but it is a party atmosphere and worth it.”
There had been more than 45,000 applications for tickets, with seating for 30,000 and a further 45,000 expected in standing areas in and around the stadium.
Sumesh Nair, 34, said: “Our ministers have come and gone but I have never seen an atmosphere like this.”
Ankit Joshi, who comes from the same area as the prime minister, Gujarat, had been eagerly anticipating the visit. “It has been something like 34 years since a visit by an Indian leader of this kind so it is a special time,” said the production manager who moved to Dubai two years ago. “I have seen Modi’s career develop with interest from my hometown. What he has done for India and business in particular is impressive.
“There are so many Indians living in Dubai, it is extra special for all of us that he has been invited here. I’m sure the links with the UAE will only get stronger.”