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Atlanta <<CityNews Main
Festival Of India Draws Over 7000;
Lt Gov Mark Taylor Graces Event

Sports Facility Guy Andrew Krieger Keynote Speaker

MAKING A MARK: Lt. Gov Mark Taylor (left) addresses the crowd, as Consul Gen. SR Tayal and FOI co-coordinator Chand Akkineni look on. 
ONE FOR THE CAMERA: (L to R) Consul Gen. SK Tayal, Designer Anand Jon, IACA President Dr Paddy Sharma and Georgia Lt Gov. Mark Taylor.
LITTLE INDIA: Crowds cram every nook at the food court. 
EK DO TEEN:  Madhuri beckons the crowds.
RANG DAY: A  glimpse of the cultural program.


Over 7000 people  thronged the Gwinnett Civic Center for the Eighth Annual Festival of India- 'Incredible India' on August 14th. The annual event was organized by the India American Cultural Association (IACA) and 30 other Indian community organizations. People could be seen shopping or browsing through the various booths, before making a beeline for the food court where most popular Indian Restaurants had set up stalls. The daylong event also included several seminars, cultural events, a visa camp and health camp, a bone marrow drive and a formal inauguration by Georgia Lt Governor Mark Taylor and Consul General SK Tayal. Andrew Krieger, chairman of IMG Academies was the keynote speaker.

Lt Gov. Mark Taylor said he was honored to be at the festival. “I consider myself to be a friend of India,” he said. He was presented with the Friends of India award by Consul General Tayal on the occasion.

Mike Leven, founder of Microtel Inn, Days Inn and Aahoa reflected on how Indians had worked hard to make it in the hospitality industry. He was presented with the Friends of India award by Commissioner RK Sehgal.

Ken Cutshaw, Honorary Consul for India presented the Friends of India award to international designer Anand Jon, who was a special invitee at the event.

Earlier in the day, Hon Tayal formally inaugurated the festival. Speaking on the occasion, Tayal said that during the past two years he has attended Independence Day and Republic Day celebrations in Houston, Tampa, Orlando and Dallas but the level of participation, activities and enthusiasm at the Atlanta Festival was unparalleled. He said he felt proud that Indian Americans were making their presence felt and were receiving mainstream respect and recognition in diverse fields but he lamented the fact that Indians had not yet excelled in ‘sports’ at international level. 

Referring to the Athens Olympics, he said he would feel happy if India won even one medal. “We should be collectively ashamed of this reality. There is no lack of talent but it needs to be nurtured, supported, promoted and guided”. 

Turning to the Keynote Speaker, Mr. Andrew Krieger, chairman of IMG Academies Bharata (IMGB), he said, “I wish you all luck in what you are trying to accomplish in your vision of building next generation of sports champions.” He assured him that the Government of India would be happy to support him in his venture. IMGB, a $120 million project in Hyderabad, is poised to be India's first multi-discipline coaching academy of international standards.

Chand Akkineni, also a co-chairman of the Festival echoed the remarks of Tayal. He said that it was only after moving to the US, he realized the effort, training, skills, money and parental support needed to win medals. The Press articles about Krieger in ‘New York Times’ and ‘India Abroad’ aroused his interest and he invited Krieger to the Festival to explain his mission. India has a vast pool of talent and Krieger is the right man to help tap it. Chand ended on an optimistic note, “In year 2008, I am confident, India will bag a few Olympic medals.”

Andrew Krieger’s Keynote Address:

Krieger said that since his childhood, he has been fascinated by India, so he studied Vedanta, yoga, Indian philosophy and even Sanskrit. Over the years he remained perplexed that India known for it’s mastery in Yoga and other disciplines had yet to excel in international sports arena. He majored in Indian and Western Philosophy, and got his MA in South Asian Studies but then he decided to change course and earned his MBA in Finance from Wharton. He went on to work at Wall Street, in Currency Options.

Krieger said he was a good tennis player himself. His children were trained at IMG in Florida (which he heads), the world’s leading training and events management program which has produced tennis luminaries like Andre Agassi and Maria Sharapova and soccer sensation like Adu

He said was disillusioned with the state of things in general after his first trip to India in 1988. Because of his long-term association with IMG, he thought of a literacy experiment-fusion of East and West- a transfer of IMG’s sports training model to India! 
An agreement was signed with the Government of Andhra Pradesh and IMGB was launched in June 2004. 400 acres of land has been bought near the proposed international airport. 

With the help of overhead projector, Krieger showed pictures of the site and the sports complex. “It will have training facilities for tennis, cricket, field hockey, basketball, aquatics, soccer and a PGA standard Golf Course,” he said. “There will also be a seven star resort hotel. It will provide a combined academic and sports program. Initially 250 promising 6-7 year old children will be picked from villages and given full scholarships to pursue a residential training program.”

Krieger said the Hyderabad complex will replicate the Florida campus. It will also train about 7000 coaches from all over India. It will organize international sports events at the complex and attract athletes and tourists from other countries. He said he was aware of the Indian mindset, where parents push their children to excel in academics rather than sports but the time is ripe for change. New heroes are needed. Olympic medals would not be won overnight but after four to eight years, champions will emerge, he said. 

Other activities:

Seminars by international designer Anand Jon, DaysInn and Aahoa founder Mike Leven, ‘India Unveiled’ author Bob Arnett, amongst others, were well received. NetIP's seminar titled "Incredible Women" attracted many participants. The crowds could be seen spending time at the "Incredible India" exhibition. 

The visa camp organized by the Houston Consulate was attended by over 800 people, creating logistics problems, according to the FOI organizers. Over 375 people benefited from the health fair organized jointly by the Georgia Association of Physicians of India (GAPI), the Gujarati Samaj and the BAPS temple. Over 75 people participated in the first Freedom walk hosted by Asha for Education. Kids activities organized by the Telugu Association of Metro Atlanta (TAMA), Vibha, and the KCA kept the children busy for many hours.

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