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Sunday, Mar 18, 2018
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O’Neill: Venue, locals key to Bollywood success in Tampa

By all accounts, Tampa acquitted itself impressively during the four-day International Indian Film Academy Awards experience. The venues worked, the weather worked, the music worked, the dynamics worked. It was manifest from the packed “Stomp” party at Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park and the IIFA extravaganza at Raymond James Stadium to the diverse cultural interactions around town and a customized Do Da Tampa theme song.

Tampa, in effect, shared the stage with Bollywood.

This was literally underscored at the RayJay. As Visit Tampa Bay President & CEO Santiago Corrada told The Tampa Tribune: “Every actor and director addressing the audience from the stage mentioned Tampa. All night it was ‘Tampa, Tampa, Tampa, Tampa.’ The world will know the name Tampa when the show is watched.”

And that will be later next month when upwards of 800 million viewers will see the three-hour broadcast.

Some additional perspective:

♦ The Huffington Post’s favorite video was Kevin Spacey dancing in a (wrap-around) lungi alongside Indian fan favorites. It was fun to see. But then the Huff Post sniffed that the Bollywood Awards were “counterintuitively held in Tampa Bay, Fla.”

Say what?

Hosting multiple Super Bowls, a national political convention and various Final Fours still haven’t convinced elements of the U.S. media that this market is a major player? And that the host city was “Tampa.”

There was a time when that would really roil me. Now I just chalk it up to a media that’s too often uninterested in and under-informed about anything except domestic partisan politics, natural disasters and high-profile crimes.

The fact is we do these well. Don’t just ask the Shriners. Ask the NFL, the NCAA, the RNC. Not many places could have turned around such a glitzy, logistics-rich international event in less than 10 months. And now the subcontinent, reinforced by this area’s Indian community of more than 35,000, will be noting our place on the hospitality — and global business — map.

♦ But there’s another factor that’s so obvious we could easily take it for granted.

Tampa is — and maybe this is part of the Huff Post’s counterintuition-deficit — a small big city. That’s not a flaw, but an asset.

Big enough to have a world-class airport, a major deep-water port, an enviable Riverwalk, cruise liners and professional sports. Big enough to be a national- and world-stage player. But small enough so that people and neighborhoods matter and are easily involved.

And when it comes to involved, dedicated people, we’re blessed. Without Dr. Kiran C. Patel, cardiologist, entrepreneur and philanthropist, the IIFA doesn’t make its U.S. debut in Tampa — or “Tampa Bay, Fla.” Patel — think Jeff Vinik in a Nehru jacket — has the family name on a Research Institute, a Performing Arts Conservatory and USF’s Center for Global Solutions and College of Global Sustainability. He’s become Tampa’s go-to patron saint.

Patel cares. About causes and about Tampa. He wrote a gigantic — reportedly low eight-figure — check that helped convince the IIFA to bring its attention-galvanizing, international show here. The state and county chipped in some marketing money, and the city added in-kind help in the form of venue-fee discounts, but Patel was the rainmaker.

Insiders also point to the invaluable asset that is Visit Tampa Bay’s Corrada, whose can-do enthusiasm and attention to detail were contagious in the IIFA pitch. Mayor Bob Buckhorn and County Commissioner Al Higginbotham were key catalytic players — and a reminder that the city-county relationship can, indeed, be a complementary one.

♦ The official Visit Tampa Bay “Invasion Guide” to the IIFA events contained messages from the city of Tampa, Hillsborough County, Visit Tampa Bay, designated hosts and the state of Florida.

The words of Buckhorn, Commissioner Mark Sharpe, Corrada and Drs. Kiran and Pallavi Patel were appropriately couched in welcoming rhetoric and proud notations of local venues, attractions, diversity and hospitality.

Then there was the message — on behalf of the Sunshine State — from Gov. Rick Scott. It was a nominal welcome followed by campaign boilerplate. He noted how he had “reduced the size, cost and scope of Florida’s government.”

Nice touch. Some things never change, whatever the occasion.

Huff Post could have had fun with that one.

❖ ❖ ❖

I understand and agree with the rationale behind the newly redesigned SAT. It’s looking to be fair and relevant.

To that end, it aims for more real-world applications and analysis — not knowledge in the abstract.

And so long to those relatively obscure vocabulary words that never get used — even by the most, well, punctilious of students.

Another change: the essay. It was introduced in 2005 — the year analogy questions were dropped — and now will become optional. Part of the rationale for the essay’s inclusion was to assess thought organization, logic and coherence.

Alas, those skills are not optional at the next level.

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O’Neill: Venue, locals key to Bollywood success in Tampa