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Gotthard Base Tunnel: Switzerland completes the construction of the world’s largest tunnel in 17 Years

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Swiss Federal President Johann Schneider-Ammann, right, speaks with French President Francois Hollande, left, on the opening day of the Gotthard rail tunnel, the longest tunnel in the world, at the fairground Rynaecht at the northern portal in Erstfeld, S. Image source: Reuters
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  • It took 17 years for the Swiss tunnelers to complete World’s largest tunnel
  • It is called Gotthard Base Tunnel, officially opened on June 1, 2016
  • Celebrations started on Wednesday June 1, 2016
  • The rail will be open for travelers this year, in December 2016

In this day and age everyone wants fast. Faster internet connection, faster customer service, faster results. In 1947 Swiss engineer Carl Eduard Gruner was dreaming about faster transportation. Switzerland’s Gotthard base tunnel is a staggering 35.4 miles long, and a mile and a half under the Gotthard mountain range. This tunnel stretches from Erstfeld and Bodio. The tunnel cuts commute time from Zurich to Milan by 45 minutes; that is fast.

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Before opening the tunnel as a means of public transportation, the Swiss wanted to take the time to commemorate and celebrate such an amazing feat. The tunnel’s website says that the tunnel presents to the world, “Swiss values such as innovation, precision and reliability.” The celebration was far from just being a combination of Swiss values. Modern dances accompanied the opening of the tunnel, and drew much of the attention.

Swiss police officers stand beside of mock gates of the NEAT Gotthard Base Tunnel inside the event hall for the upcoming opening ceremony near the town of Erstfeld, Switzerland May 31, 2016. Image source: REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann
Swiss police officers stand beside of mock gates of the NEAT Gotthard Base Tunnel inside the event hall for the upcoming opening ceremony near the town of Erstfeld, Switzerland May 31, 2016. Image source: REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann

One dance number featured dancers who wore orange construction suits an boots. They danced on and near a flatcar. Another dance featured an angelic like creatures. The dancers danced in what appeared to be white briefs. One dancer suck out wearing wings and an oversized head. One other dance number spectators watched the dancers move about the tunnel wearing suits that were said to be, “a cross between a pom-pom and a hay bale.” These dance numbers all pay tribute to the Gotthard mountain range, and the significance it holds in Swiss society.

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Dancers and spectators were the majority of people who attended the opening of the tunnel. The inauguration of this milestone also drew attention from the leaders of the EU; German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Francois Hollande and Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi. The opening also featured the traditional playing of alphorns. With this, the tunnel was blessed and the tunnel’s theme song was played.

The festivities do not stop there. This weekend a festival is planned to occur on both sides of the tunnel. There will also be a train commuting people through the tunnel from one end to the other.

This $12 billion monstrosity of a tunnel was completed on time, and Gruner’s dream came true. After 17 years of construction, 9 deaths, and $1,300 of taxes added to each person, this marvel of a tunnel has been opened. In December, the rail will be open for travelers.

Abigail Andrea is an intern at NewsGram. Twitter handle: @abby_kono

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  • Shivang Goel

    Amazing to read and know when India was coming above racial race;Independence, Swedish were thinking far too much; but the way India has progressed in recent years is marvelous according to international standards; this is a huge feat and should be celebrated for days and weeks;
    Indias pir panjal tunnel is hardly 12 kms while this is extremely amazing a 57km stretch

Next Story

Indian Art Forms in International Festivals Through Sands of Culture Series

We sought new opportunities in Austria, Germany, Italy and Spain, working through agents and driving box office sales to make projects economically viable.

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It took some convincing to get the Edinburgh International Film Festival to agree to move Shah Rukh's
Thessaloniki International Film Festival hoarding, wikimedia commons

In 1999, as part of a British Council showcase programme, I travelled to the Edinburgh Festival and that set in motion the idea of creating platforms for Indian contemporary and classical art forms across the world.

Working closely with the Festival Fringe, the International Film Festival, the Edinburgh Tattoo and the Edinburgh International Festival, we created an annual offering of work, enlarging our presence from six productions to 16 in a short period. Many thought we were mad, but our long-term objectives paid off in more ways than one. We presented an array of artists: Aditi Mangaldas, Daksha Sheth, Birju Maharaj and Malavika Sarukkai. Mrigaya, the world music group which went on to win the Herald Angel Award at Edinburgh in 2002 and a 5-star review from The Scotsman, Indian Ocean, Lillette Dubey and the Primetime Theatre Group, Adi Shakti, Lushin Dubey, Dadi Pudumjee and the Ishara Theatre Company, are some more names I recollect who were on our entourage. Shah Rukh Khan made his way to Edinburgh in a celebration of the best of Indian arts.

It took some convincing to get the Edinburgh International Film Festival to agree to move Shah Rukh’s “In Conversation” with Nasreen Munni Kabir to a larger venue. They cited examples of having presented the biggest stars, including Sean Connery, in a 300-seat venue. Tickets went on sale and sold out minutes after the box office opened, only to be resold at £100 a ticket! The news made it to The Times front page and the festival organisers, somewhat embarrassed, moved the venue to a 1,000-seat auditorium. Huge crowds gathered at the festival venue. At the after-party, we had to barricade Shah Rukh in a corner, with tables and bouncers guarding him. The Edinburgh festivals hadn’t quite seen something like this before! They were ignorant of work from India as very few shows had ever travelled out.

In 1999, as part of a British Council showcase programme, I travelled to the Edinburgh Festival and that set in motion the idea of creating platforms for Indian contemporary and classical art forms across the world.
Gulzar, Javed Akhtar and Prasoon Joshi at Jaipur Literature Festival, wikimedia commons

The year we presented Ishara Puppet Theatre’s “Transposition”, the infamous liquid bomb incident took place at Heathrow as we landed. Having being evacuated from the airport and shipped to Gatwick, we finally arrived in Edinburgh after a 16-hour delay, only to find that 24 of our 30 outsized puppet boxes and bags had been lost! Each day was spent at the airport warehouse searching for luggage. Five days and three cancelled shows later, the BBC ran a story on our predicament. Hours later, a passenger telephoned Dana Macleod, our coordinator in Edinburgh, to say strange-shaped bags were going around the carousel with stickers bearing her name. The show was back on the road!

Investments in shows and festivals in those early days meant that year-on-year, our balance sheets were red. Co-presenting with existing festivals led to some degree of success, with annual presentations in Singapore, Wellington, Perth and Melbourne. Much of this was a result of networking at the Edinburgh festivals and setting out a plan for collaborations, a strategy we adopted for the next few years. As our footprint grew through Asia to include Hong Kong, Korea and Indonesia, we began to look westwards.

Prompted by our then Consul General, Navdeep Suri, we set up the Shared History Festival in South Africa, to bring about an awareness of a new India and the many opportunities it offered, amongst the one-million strong Indian diaspora. We collaborated with the city of Johannesburg’s annual festival, Arts Alive, to bring about resurgence in the crime-infested Central Business District (CBD) area of New Town. The city planned to use the arts to re-populate the CBD and reduce crime and bring back the local populace. With audiences returning to theatres, New Town has now seen a rise in property prices, new businesses opening and residential blocks being re-built. In Durban and Johannesburg, the arts community and the diaspora who had earlier rejected everything Indian began rediscovering and celebrating their roots. Driven by their need to trace their history many have, since then, travelled back to India.

We sought new opportunities in Austria, Germany, Italy and Spain, working through agents and driving box office sales to make projects economically viable.

Working closely with the Festival Fringe, the International Film Festival, the Edinburgh Tattoo and the Edinburgh International Festival, we created an annual offering of work, enlarging our presence from six productions to 16 in a short period.
Shahrukh Khan was present in Edinburgh Film Festival wikimedia commons

We produced “Bollywood Love Story”, a musical, to reach new audiences. We were amazed to discover how small towns like Einbeck, Stuttgart, Eindhoven and larger ones like Florence, Barcelona and Stockholm had a huge appetite to celebrate and embrace Indian culture. Local arts-attending audiences came to our celebration dressed in Indian attire, belting out words of songs they didn’t understand and eating their versions of Indian food. Exporting Bollywood should be the mainstay of our foreign missions in order to capture hearts and minds of people across the world. From Russia to Egypt and China through Canada I have seen an increasing appetite to present and understand the best of Indian culture.

In today’s polarised world, it is imperative that we use the arts as a window into other cultures, traditions, history and a way of working. The arts know no language and have a universality that allows the viewer to seamlessly absorb and appreciate new experiences. A few years ago, the Globe Theatre, as part of the Cultural Olympiad, commissioned an array of exciting productions played out from Afghanistan and India to Romania and Belarus. Each was distinct and brought to the fore, cultural differences and yet was bound together by the universal language of theatre and performance. Audiences who attended may not have understood the nuances of the languages, but this did not detract them from enjoying what they were witnessing. Pia Behrupiya by Company Theatre was a brilliant piece of original stagecraft. Based on Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night”, the ensemble cast sang, danced and created magic at the Globe. Last year as part of “India70@UK” we were able to present some of the finest of contemporary theatre, dance and music at premium arts venues including the Royal Festival Hall, Barbican Theatre and the Globe.

As the Indian economy continues to grow, the world is curious about India and everything Indian. From exotic locations: Ladhak to Hampi and Ajanta & Ellora to Murshidabad and Varanasi, to a diverse, dynamic and an extremely alive cultural matrix, we have a lot to offer. India needs to create a counter-narrative to that of rapes, murders and religious extremism, absconding businessmen and less then scrupulous business practices that make headlines the world over. The arts can be an anchor for this emerging narrative; not only do they create jobs but also educate and enlighten.

Also Read: Two Men Jailed For Robbing an Indian in Dubai

As the third industrial revolution fades away and we look to the fourth, which will be the coming together of creativity and technology, India is well-placed to be a world leader. Unfortunately, our policies and government are yet to seize the moment and set in place incentives and a route map to the future.

(In our “Shifting Sands of Culture” series, Sanjoy K. Roy, the third of five noted personalities addresses the challenge of taking Indian arts abroad in this article written exclusively for IANS. Sanjoy K. Roy, an entrepreneur of the arts, is the Managing Director of Teamwork Arts, which produces over 25 highly acclaimed festivals across 40 cities worldwide and includes the world’s largest free literary gathering — the annual ZEE Jaipur Literature Festival) (IANS)