India’s billon-dollar battle to build the world’s biggest statue

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The 182-meter-high tribute to independence icon Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel in Gujarat state will be the first to dwarf the Spring Temple Buddha in China. (AFP)
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Indian workers carry on construction works at the ‘Statue Of Unity’, a monument dedicated to Indian independence leader Vallabhbhai Patel. (AFP)
Updated 03 September 2018
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India’s billon-dollar battle to build the world’s biggest statue

  • Around one billion dollars is being spent on the two giant effigies, each more than twice as tall as the Statue of Liberty
  • India’s statue politics often fall victim to ‘hard economic reality,’ according to Badra Narayan, a professor at the Pant Social Science Institute

SARDAR SAROVAR DAM, India: The world’s biggest statue is rising in a remote corner of India to honor an independence hero but it could quickly be outdone by a monument to a Hindu warrior king in the sea off Mumbai.
In a burst of nationalist fervor, around one billion dollars is being spent on the two giant effigies, each more than twice as tall as the Statue of Liberty.
A 182-meter-high (600-foot-high) tribute to independence icon Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel in Gujarat state will be the first to dwarf the Spring Temple Buddha in China, currently the world’s biggest statue at 128 meters (420 feet) in height.
Pick-axes are also swinging for a 212-meter-high likeness of 17th-century king Chhatrapati Shivaji, resplendent on a horse and brandishing a sword, which should dominate the Mumbai shoreline from 2021.
An army of 2,500 workers — including several hundred Chinese laborers — is toiling around the clock to put 5,000 squares of bronze cladding on the figure of Patel so it can be ready for inauguration on October 31 by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The 29.9-billion-rupee ($430-million) “Statue of Unity” overlooking the isolated Sardar Sarovar Dam is a pet project of Modi.
He has predicted it will attract “hordes” of tourists, as the Statue of Liberty does in New York.
Visitors will be able to access a viewing gallery 153 meters up — about chest height on the huge standing figure.
But they will have to travel 250 kilometers (150 miles) from the state’s main city of Allahabad to get there.
There is also a political motive to the mega project, with India heading into a campaign for a national election early next year.
Patel was deputy to India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru after independence in 1947 and Modi’s nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party says his name has been unfairly overshadowed by the dominant Nehru dynasty.
Patel became known as the “Iron Man of India” by persuading — through talks and a hint of force — some 550 princely states to become part of India after independence from Britain in 1947. He died three years later.
Many Hindu nationalists feel it was a slight when Patel was asked to step aside to let the secular Nehru become the country’s first leader.
“Every Indian regrets Sardar Patel did not become the first prime minister,” Modi said while campaigning in 2013.
“Modi has used Patel’s legacy a lot in his election campaigns,” said Ghanshyam Shah, a former professor of class politics at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi.
“He is very likely to use the Statue of Unity during the upcoming campaign but I am worried about how it will influence voters,” Shah added.
The opposition Congress party says that a plan to change the Nehru Memorial museum in New Delhi into a center devoted to all of India’s prime ministers is another bid to taint Nehru’s name.
In 2016, Modi laid the foundation stone in Maharashtra state for the statue of Shivaji, a hero of the 80 million strong Marathi community based in the state.
Hindu nationalists have also adopted Shivaji, who made his name battling the Muslim Mughal empire. Critics say the 36-billion-rupee ($515-million) statue is a way of winning Marathi votes in next year’s election.
Fueling the fervor, the government announced last week that the word “Maharaj,” or king, had been added to the title of Mumbai’s Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport.
“The BJP has been appropriating icons for some time,” said Sudha Pai of the Indian Council of Social Science Research.
“Patel has been used to wipe out the Nehru legacy. The BJP wants to change the way history is perceived and show that the right wing was as important in India’s freedom struggle.”
Preliminary work has started on the controversial project — with a museum, park and helipad — on reclaimed land two kilometers (1.5 miles) out to sea.
Environmentalists and thousands of fishing workers oppose the statue because of the threat to fishing stocks.
The price of the monument is certain to rise, analysts say and the state government has already changed the design to bring down costs.
How it will eventually look and when it will be finished remains in doubt.
India’s statue politics often fall victim to “hard economic reality,” according to Badra Narayan, a professor at the Pant Social Science Institute in Allahabad.
An overrun is inevitable, according to I.C. Rao, head of a Mumbai citizens’ group, who has questioned the cost and safety of the Shivaji design.
He said finishing the statue on time, would be “an impossibility even for the Trojans.”


Royale rumble: ‘Apex Legends’ smashing ‘Fortnite’ records

Updated 20 February 2019
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Royale rumble: ‘Apex Legends’ smashing ‘Fortnite’ records

  • “Apex Legends” has charged into the market and smashed “Fortnite” records for downloads and viewership since its release three weeks ago
  • Like “Fortnite” and “PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds,” “Apex” is free to download and play, making its money by selling outfits and other upgrades for use in the game

NEW YORK: For the first time since its meteoric rise, “Fortnite” is no longer a no-doubt victory royale atop the video game industry.
“Apex Legends” — a battle royale from Electronic Arts — has charged into the market and smashed “Fortnite” records for downloads and viewership since its release three weeks ago. Tyler “Ninja” Blevins and other streaming stars have powered that surge, as has the emergence of an 18-year-old “Apex” superstar. Esports teams are already scrambling to sign talented players and invest long-term, while others are raising concerns about overcommitting to the suddenly volatile battle royale genre.
Developed by Respawn Entertainment and published by EA, “Apex” has shaken the industry by building on many of its shining successes. It has pulled popular elements from other battle royales — a type of video game where players are dropped into a map and fight in a last-man-standing format against up to 100 other gamers — while making a few key changes.
Like “Fortnite” and “PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds,” “Apex” is free to download and play, making its money by selling outfits and other upgrades for use in the game. Among its key differences: “Apex” players compete exclusively in teams of three and can choose characters with varying abilities, features essential to team-based esports like “League of Legends” and “Overwatch.”
The game also went hard after the existing battle royale audience. EA recruited Blevins, Richard “KingRichard” Nelson and other famous gamers, asking them to put down “Fortnite” and stream “Apex” following its release Feb. 4. Blevins alone has over 13 million subscribers on Twitch, immediately giving “Apex” a massive audience. It’s unclear if EA paid those influencers to play the game, and EA did not respond to repeated requests for comment.
“Apex” had 25 million downloads in its first week, crushing the “Fortnite” mark of 10 million over its first two weeks after launching in 2017.
“I think ‘Apex’ has caught everybody by storm,” said Andy Miller, CEO of NRG Esports, which rosters teams across various video game titles. “They did a phenomenal job of getting the influencers to play it first, feeding the market on Twitch and then watching everybody starting to play the game, and the game is good.”
Six days after the game launched, NRG announced it was recruiting “Apex” players, making it the first esports organization to seek a pro specifically for that title. General manager Jaime Cohenca led the search, combing through applications and Twitch streams. With the game being so new, Cohenca wasn’t entirely sure what he was looking for other than an “exceptional talent.”
He “knew immediately” when he came across Dizzy.
Coby “Dizzy” Meadows is an 18-year-old from Florida, and he is believed to be the best “Apex” player in the world. NRG signed him Feb. 12, and later that day, Meadows made major waves in the esports community by killing 33 of his 59 opponents in one match — a viral moment that generated nearly 500,000 views on YouTube alone. The next day, Meadows teamed up with Blevins and Nelson, also an NRG player, to win the $200,000 Twitch Rivals Apex Legends tournament against a lineup of streaming megastars.
Behind big draws for Dizzy, Ninja and KingRichard, “Apex” smashed another “Fortnite” record that day: 8.28 million hours of “Apex” were streamed on Twitch, topping the “Fortnite” mark of 6.6 million from July 20, per The Esports Observer.
Meadows has played regularly with Blevins and Nelson since. They won another tournament together later that week, and in the finals, Meadows had as many kills on his own as the entire opposing team.
“We knew this was a kid we had to take a flyer on,” Cohenca said. “Dizzy was a rock star.”
The question now: What comes next for “Apex,” “Fortnite,” and the stars and companies building up around their popularity? No doubt, NRG’s fast move on Meadows has paid off, and other top esports organizations have since begun recruiting their own “Apex” pros. But it’s still not clear what kind of scene they’re staffing up for.
Epic Games, the developer behind “Fortnite,” hasn’t prioritized that game’s competitive sphere in the same way that companies behind “League of Legends” or “Overwatch” have. Top “Fortnite” players like Blevins aren’t necessarily stars because they win every tournament. Ninja is a skilled gamer, for sure, but what has separated him is that he’s entertaining, a talent that pairs well with a goofier game like “Fortnite.”
“Apex” lacks those cartoonish vibes, and its rules and structure could lend it better to competitive esports — where skill and teamwork become more important than engaging on Twitch. EA has experience building leagues around its games, too, most notably with sports titles like Madden and FIFA.
Right now, it’s unclear where “Apex” is going, and for how long it can hold that space. That’s part of why Ari Segal, CEO at Immortals, has been hesitant to invest in battle royale players. He remains cautious, especially now that “Apex” has drawn up such a spectacular blueprint for entering the market.
“It’s a well-oiled flywheel that likely means new battle royale games will increasingly be able to launch to faster and larger success, at least initially,” he said.
Immortals and NRG are at opposite ends of that spectrum, in many ways. NRG already has plans to build out a full “Apex” team so it’s ready to put a talented squad in the field no matter the competitive and streaming structure. It also plans to maintain its “Fortnite” roster, which features entertaining streamers like Nelson.
Segal’s concern is that if one battle royale can so quickly pull eyeballs from the others, how do you build around each title? Formerly an executive with the NHL’s Arizona Coyotes, his ambitions are to turn Immortals into a longstanding franchise like those in traditional sports. Quickly turning over rosters to keep up with the hot new thing isn’t part of his plan.
“We believe that by selling sizzle, your customer is buying sizzle, and that by definition will flame out,” Segal said. “We’re not selling sizzle; we’re building community.”