When Mother Nature is in a bad mood, nothing is sacred, no one is safe. And nowhere is spared. With unnatural strength and speed, her fury is unleashed, turning homes into havoc, complete communities into kindling, even faith into questioning. It happens over and over. Something, somewhere, broken.
Haiti. Tacloban. Mexico City. Oklahoma City. Bohol. Bangladesh.The list goes on and on…Earthquakes across the most populated and poor centres, floods overflowing across vital farmlands, wildfires down under.
Watching from across the world, these moments happen, these tragedies unfold, and then we move on…
Seconds that change time forever are unleashed, the damage is done, and we move on…
The busyness gets the better of us….and new events occur.
New news gains the headlines.
For the people left behind after the storms have passed, after the world has moved on, their world will never be the same. Broken, the challenge to rebuild is made more painful as all around all that can be seen is death, destruction, desperation, and a complete departure of hope.
And yet they move forward. Homes, and hopes, are rebuilt. Because there is no other option. Going forward is the only possible direction to take. They too must move on.
This is when the world needs to continue to watch, to support, to express loudly and frequently how the heroic efforts of survivors are seen, admired and wanting to be strengthened by a world still watching, still praying for the day when the new normal has become a positive force for the future.
‘Being there‘ takes on so many different shapes and forms when crisis hits. Immediate response brings immediate attention, and hopefully relief.The story brings the support, and the sympathy, and the sense of needing to do something.
But then time, and focus, moves on….
As the months and years pass, and day by day people rebuild their lives, being there shifts in its meaning, in its value. Often, it’s importance strengthens, as the fatigue and frustration can become too much to face, day after day. This is when the being there can simply mean embedding a feeling of not being alone.
Physical presence matters. But it does not stop there. So too does emotional presence.
Not forgetting. But rather by reaching out, reminding those rebuilding that they are in thought, in prayer, being applauded and supported for their remarkable determination to move forward, being defined by their courage, not their crisis.
For one’s darkest days can be felt when one feels so deeply alone.
Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2014
This April, two different nations once written off as risks, and with reputations for one single thing – heartbreaking, lawbreaking acts to ones own – marked two decades of progress, unity and hope in a way that can only be described by one word: ‘heroic‘.
April 07th, 2014 – RWANDA: 20 years since the beginning of the most horrific time in the nation’s lifetime, costing the lives of over 800,000 Rwandans. Millions of Rwandans were left homeless with shattered spirits as the world stood shamed for inaction. Today, 20 years on, the nation pauses to remember, to forgive, to learn, to move on. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HOGWikDkjjQ&feature=youtu.be
April 27th, 2014 – SOUTH AFRICA: 20 years since the day all South Africans were able to stand together in voting lines, choosing for the first time their first black President, taking the first steps as a rainbow nation colourblind to face and race. Two decades on, the nation sees and feels the vividness and value of its rainbow bands of colour. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RSKZMRg9dXA
While different occasions days apart, they shared one powerful force: pride. Pride in progress. Pride in possibility. Pride in unified commitment to keep moving forward, never ever going back. Pride in new identity.
In a world suffering from bruising of balance sheets, belief in leadership, short-range vision and lethargy of citizen participation, these two nations stand tall as active, tireless examples of nationals working for their better tomorrow, feeling able to feel the benefits of their playing their part.
Have there been challenges, upsets, disappointments, frustrations? Of course. But these have been part of the work in progress journey, collectively, with shared focus on what can be, not what was, or is.
The 20 years of days now passed are not reflected upon with fleeting, passing thought.
Instead words on the milestone dates reflect pauses of heart, tearful eyes remember life changing moments in their peak of emotion. On one hand, lines of panicked refugees fleeing horrors and loss, unable to think of a future. On the other, lines of patient voters waiting to have their finger dipped in ink as they have their say, unable to think of anything but the future.
Today, two decades on these two nations, once broken and now often referred to as ‘miracles‘, are two remarkable representations of nation rebuilding through activation of a nation’s richest resource: the spirit of hope within its people.
Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2014
Less than three weeks ago, it was a flight code with top of mind awareness for only a small population of mostly airline, airport and air traffic control professionals.
Today, and forever in the history books of our times, it represents a globally memorized code for a tragedy that has defied all logic, all experience, all theories, all hopes.
So too the date of March 24th. For on this day the code MH370 became scratched into the panicked hearts of those desperately waiting for news of the 239 passengers that they knew as their loved ones. The words of Malaysian officials extinguished all flickering hopes for a happy ending. While so much remained unclear, what was certain was that 239 souls were lost somewhere in the rough, expansive seas of the southern Indian Ocean.
Whether directly or indirectly, whether known by name and smile or simply as a flight manifest profile, the loss of the 239 lives linked of MH370 weigh heavily on the hearts and minds of hundreds of millions of people across the globe – one global community united by shock.
How could is have happened?
What actually happened?
Working as one united force, a reported 26 countries from all corners of the world remain focused on the search for the missing aircraft, 6 nations actively participating in sea and air operations. Countless number of agencies, networks, funds and prayers are being channelled towards the hunt for wreckage, and answers. Unlimited resources have been pledged towards the search, underlined with commitments to “do whatever it takes” to find the remains of MH370. Because the world needs to find the lost 239 souls so that they can be returned home, and, somehow, the healing can begin.
And the world needs the understanding.
From a global aviation perspective, the tragedy of MH370 has been called many things. ‘Unprecedented’, ‘unimaginable’, ‘unfathomable‘. An aircraft does not simply disappear. Not in today’s day and age when we are hyper-connected each and every moment by technology than transcends otherwise natural barriers of geography, economy, and even ideology.
And yet, through the loss of communications and tracking connection to MH370, a profound connection has been established: a remarkably powerful and purposeful connection across the global aviation community, governments, and the media, with one single mission. Find MH370.
Putting corporate logos, flags, and foreign policy issues aside, the greater the count of days missing grew, so too grew the count of leaders, agencies, and other specialists entities coming on board to find MH370 across a search area of 2.24m sq nautical miles, now narrowed to 469,407 sq nautical miles. As poignantly expressed by Mark Binskin, vice chief of the Australian Defence Force, “We’re not searching for a needle in a haystack. “We’re still trying to define where the haystack is.” Determination, collaboration and prayer became and remain the modus operandi. Humanity has become the compass. The search for survivors and answers has not been about credit or conditions of cooperation, nor has it been about cost or casting blame. MH370 has inspired a new way of connecting the skies, and now seas. The ill fated aircraft has become a symbol of so much more – a symbol uniting those working, those grieving, and those watching on, as one.
For followers of the mystery of MH370, the ongoing search for clues regarding the whereabouts of the missing aircraft has exposed the depths of expertise at work in the aviation sector. From experts first operating trying to track theories in regional air spaces, to those now ready to battle the depths of some of the most hostile of the earth’s open waters, for those following the story from across the globe, the learning curve regarding global aviation systems has been as dramatic as the now predicted curve of the flight path of Malaysian carrier. Appreciation for just what it takes to bring an airplane full of passengers home, safely and smoothly, each time a flight takes off from an airport somewhere in the world, has grown.
As the spirit of MH370 permeates the hearts and minds of the world’s travelling community, for the over 3 billion air passengers estimated by IATA to fly in 2014 in this the 100th anniversary of commercial flight, looking out the airplane window at 35,000 ft will not be without a more sensitive, thoughtful, sense of wonder and wondering.
And more now than in times before, the captain’s in-flight request to ‘please fasten your seat belts’ will be taken just that little bit more seriously.
Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2014
It happens almost every time. Until the last days of the countdown, the air and airwaves are filled with questions. Sochi was no exception.
Even into the single-digit countdown to the commencement of the 2014 Olympic Winter Games, more bets were on failure than success. There were fears, there were furious protests. There were budget frowns, and there were natural teething fumbles with infrastructure. There were invisible rings, and there were incredible rounds of critique around R.O.I. And all around it, there was the ring of steel, trying to keep Sochi safely out of the global headlines for all the wrong reasons.
And somewhere, lost in it all, was the athletes.
Arriving with years of training, praying and whole-hearted hope tucked tightly in their luggage and bags of precious sporting gear, the athletes make their way to their temporary sporting home – the Athlete’s Village, soon towards the most important sporting stage of their lives, and maybe, just maybe, to the sacred steps of the medal winner’s podium. Whether it is the Olympic Games, the FIFA World Cup, whatever the meg-event may be, the intensity of training and personal passion can never be underestimated. For the athletes, this is it – this is the moment they have waited for their entire life. Wearing the colour of their flag, their home, the blessing and burden of ambassadorship on their shoulders and hearts, they come, ready to perform, ready to turn their dreams into a reality.
And yet, over and over, event after event, the athletes become swallowed up by the waves of unfortunate doubt and debate, waves that robbed the event’s build up in excitement, energy and unity, as they so deserved. It happened in Sochi, as it did South Africa in 2010, and in London in 2012, and it will no doubt happen in Rio.
And then suddenly the shift occurred.
As the Olympic cauldron began to glow with the heat of the flame and passionate quests for gold, the spirit of the games, the true spirit of the Olympic Games, was unlocked. From the ski slopes to the catwalks, it was all about all things Russian. Suddenly Sochi was sexy. And Sochi was safe, secure, full of the awe and addictive competitive watching that makes mega-events so must-see. Mother Nature, the global media and all managing to be in sport’s momentary centre of the universe made sure the world was watching in envy and in full support.
As the curtain fell on the 2014 Winter Olympic Games, with the host nation showing its sense of pride, and sense of humour, in its final showcase of why Russia was the ultimate winner of gold at these Games, as was reported by journalists covering the spectacle, initial fears and concerns, challenges and chirps, all seemed “a distant memory”.
Sochi, and Russia, did it.
And now it is time to celebrate the world’s winter Paralympics as they take to the Sochi sporting stage. Following that, it will be Russia’s chance to host F1 from October 2014 until 2020. And in 2018, FIFA will bring the World Cup to Russian shores and football fields.
Not to mention all that is ahead for Rio and Brasil as they host the 2014 FIFA World Cup and then 2018 Olympic and Paralympic Games. And Qatar as they prepare for the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
In all cases, in all mega-events, the marathon efforts made by the organising committees prove, time and again, to be the greatest challenges, and greatest sources of pride, of their careers. Not to mention the lifelong quest of the athletes.
Which begs the question: why does it take the watching world so long to switch on the spirit of the event?
Why, only in the last days and hours, is the spirit unlocked? And the focus of the event – the world’s best athletes – deprived of global support until the finish line of the event’s start is in short-range sight.
Why is the spirit of the moment left to the last moment?
As with the supreme athletes and organisers that take part in making mega-events such global sensations, audiences worldwide must find it within themselves to dig deep, believe in the impossible, mute nay-sayers, and do what it takes to turn dreams into reality. The venues and essential infrastructure are the responsibility of the organising committee. The medals are the responsibility of the athletes.
But it does not end there. The release valve of mega-event spirit is the responsibility of global audiences! And the sooner, the better.
So so much better!!
Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2014
It is a familiar routine. Arrive at the airport, check in, through security with almost automated response to plastic bins needing feeding with tech toys, to the lounge, boarding gate, board, find seat, sit, ready for take-off. Ready for travel.
We may pass by 10 people, we may pass by several hundred. Sadly the number, they, go unnoticed. And yet we are in the process of travel to go somewhere to meet new people, discover new stories, even feel renewed. It happens, often, naturally. The in-transit white noise. Comfortable, safe, silent, alone, amongst millions.
But every so often the pause button is hit, because a feeling takes over that something more important than the laptop is at work on a flight. Something…if one is still, is open, is patient, and is quiet.
Flight number cannot-recall for the year thus far even though the new year is still ‘new’.
Flight A to B en route to C. Plane is boarded, seat is found, 4F, and someone is in the seat. A gentle, common question is extended “excuse me, what seat are you in?”
Ah…that is 4F. 4E is here.
A pause, and offer.
“But if you would like to sit there that is fine.”
It is a familiar conversation of travellers. The response, however, was not.
“No, I am 82. The older you get the less you like window seats.”
Quick swap. Sorted. Ready for 2hrs of work at 35k.
As soon as permitted to open electronic devices, laptop is at the ready. And so, within eyeline and arms reach, is the inflight magazine featuring a tribute to the late President Mandela. He was 95…4E is 82…this was all during her lifetime. She lived his long walk. She was there, from the beginning until the end. How did she say ‘goodbye‘?
Wait. There is something at work, and it’s not a PPT document.
“Excuse me, you said you were 82.” A brief though awkward quiet.
Stroking the magazine, “What has this time meant to you?”
She sees the magazine’s elegant cover photo of South Africa’s father, icon, pride, tearful ache.
And so began almost two hrs, full flight duration, of discovery of 4E, a beautiful elderly African woman many would respectfully refer to as Gogo – Grandmother, with hands like soft yet well weathered dark leather, eyes deep pools full of stories that have flowed through her life – some to be shared, some to be stored in silence, and a serenity that projected a comfort in being engaged, or quite happy actually if left alone. She is a teacher. Retired. Yet still ‘participating’ in community projects. Her humility is exposed. Her community work is a 24/7/365 crusade of compassion. She grew up in ‘the struggle’, ‘not knowing anything different’, once a messenger of notes needing to be passed on to advance the cause. She is from Rustenberg. 5 children, grandchildren only recently aware of her own long walk. She grew up thinking that what was was what life was. She knew nothing about politics, it was never about politics. She lived, and lives, a life of courage, a cause. She feels that while she now lives in a ‘new South Africa’, this is no time to sit back and moan, when there are so many that gave so much to her, to others, when even they themselves had nothing, so that her messenger path was clear, her hunger was suppressed, her future was possible.
And, then she shared in a whisper, ‘what others don’t know: Rolihlahla (President Mandela) was my uncle’s best friend. My uncle married his cousin. He was a father to me…” She was there, praying with her family, as President Mandela faced the Rivonia trials, thinking he would face hanging for his charges of treason. However, when he was instead given life in prison, from that point on she knew “After that, nothing could ever make me feel despair”.
How did she make sense of all that happened? Courage, with a curious smile. “Why did God at that time blunt our feelings of danger? I knew God was with me. I could hear his footsteps.”
She speaks not of when she dies…she speaks of ‘if’. Her philosophy is simple: “You don’t achieve anything by looking at yourself.”
The power of the moment was clear. This sharing, this discovery, 4E and 4F, was meant to happen. It was allowed to happen, because the safe, secure, silent bubble of the on-board workspace was broken. And others were let in…and the desire was there to step out.
As travellers, so often we defer our discoveries of new people, new cultures, new stories, to when we reach our ultimate destination. The richest moments may, in fact, be in the journey itself…
The world we seek to discover may actually be sitting in the seat right next to us.
Her name: ‘Grace‘.
Postscript: to the world she is Grace Masuku, amongst other things the South African recipient of the prestigious ‘Presidential Order of the Baobab‘. She is also the blessing of 4E, the in-that-moment nameless woman who took my hand into hers and told me her story…
Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2014
December 05th, 2013. Midnight, South Africa time. It will forever be a day when people across the world will remember exactly where they were, what they were doing, when they heard the news: President Nelson Mandela has died. 20:59, at home, with family by his side, at the age of 95.
We always knew the announcement would come in the middle of the night.
In a single moment the world was united, in text and email messages spreading the news, in tears expressing the ache. As stated by Christiane Amanpour, “it was a moment all South Africans were dreading.” It was a moment the world was dreading. Heads of state, heads of corporations, heads of news agencies. heads of households, the heads of people of South African and across the world, all dropped in sadness.
For many, the shock could not be articulated. They cried, unsure of why exactly they were crying. Tears simply falling… Grieving was felt deeply, for oneself, for others grieving.
Something monumental had been lost, something that brought a sense of security, faith, hope, discipline, meaning, even identity, was gone.
This was more than merely the passing of a politician, a figure of nearly a century’s worth of activism. This was the loss of a leader of universal love, respect, example and hope. A loss for every individual on earth who believed in the power of believing in something better, in the power of one, in the power of the possible.
For 10 days, South Africa was held in a state of emotional ache, the official 10 day grieving period unfolding with events that embraced all South Africans, and enthralled the millions upon millions of onlookers from across the globe. There was only one story. He is gone.
And yet, through all of the sense of loss, from the immediate moment of announcement of the passing of President Mandela, as stories were shared of the life of the father of the nation, the South African miracle was reawakened. South Africans and the world were reminded of, and re-inspired by, the miracle of South Africa’s political process, and of South Africans who, to this day, continue to work to live the legacy of the nation’s father, hero, compass. Sadness and celebration became a unifying cocktail, creating a spirit at home “like during the (2010 FIFA) World Cup” as one South African said reflecting on days just past. It felt good to be a South African, a child of Madiba. It felt good to feel pride, hope and appreciation again. It felt good to focus on the positive. It felt good to be inspired by an ideal.
In a way, it felt, feels, as though this reawakening of the spirit of South Africans was, in his final moments, Madiba’s parting gift to his people.
And now, as he rests in his ancestral home, amongst the aloes on the gentle grazing hills that have kept him grounded, reminiscent, yearning, all these years, the candles continue to burn. May they glow with unwavering warmth and determination. May the reminder of the miracle of South Africa, South Africans, keep his children, all 51 million of them, focused forward, with unity and upward focus that allows him to rest in peace, watching in quiet confidence from above.
The spirit of the miracle is awake again. It must not rest.
Again. Once again, the wrath of Mother Nature has left a section of the globe battered, bruised, broken. And at a level of helplessness beyond comprehension. Super Typhoon Haiyan bellowed, banged and unashamedly assaulted its way through the archipelago Asian corridor of the Philippines, Vietnam and traces of S/E China. In a period of less than 72 hours, harrowing weather maps and projected storm paths turned into close-up images of the devastation to the places, and people, caught in the storm’s fury. Broken. Simply broken.
Estimates of those losing their lives to the relentless rains, and follow-on storm surge continue to climb. ‘Thousands’ becomes the multiplier used for those officially declared fatalities, hundreds-of-thousands the multiplier of those homeless and hopeless (670,000 displaced at latest count). Media networks providing updates double as mega-messengers for survivors reaching out to family members to share they are fine, though others could not be saved, they are gone…
Yet one, just one, tiny ray of hope emerges through it all – Baby Bea Joy Sagales, born in a moment of such ache, bringing a flicker of reason to keep believing.
Still, the reality of the need is there, everywhere. Latest appeal from the United Nations implores that the world dig deep to assist in finding the US$ 301 million projected as essential recovery funds. Over and above the UN, endless appeals coming through the screens – television, computer, tablets, mobile phones. Please give. Now. And then – social media becoming a way of finding the funds, and also finding lost loved ones. It is all a deeply saddening deja vu of global crisis, some traumatic act of God, or man, somewhere in the world….the devastating crisis in Asia in 2004 that taught the world the word ‘tsunami’, the ache of 2005’s Hurricane Katrina, the earthquake that broke through Haiti’s foundations and future in 2010, on to 2011 and the Japan earthquake and tsunami…earthquakes in China in 2012, Pakistan in 2013…on and on and on.
Uninterested and immune to global economic crisis and recovery, geo-political events, other forces, forces of nature turn atmospheric forces into life-altering events. And, once again, Mother Nature at her worst inspires humanity at its best.
As appeals come through the wires, human wiring of hearts and minds becomes alerted of the need to think beyond oneself.
Nations united give – http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=46473&Cr=philippines&Cr1=#.UoQHl41JPbk
Organisations give – http://money.cnn.com/2013/11/12/news/philippines-typhoon-donations/index.html?iid=HP_River.
Individuals give – http://edition.cnn.com/SPECIALS/impact.your.world/.
And for those responding to the appeals, a deep sense of satisfaction is felt hitting the SEND button on the ‘Donate Now’ websites. It is the deeply personal feeling of loving “because I can” in an way a world away from personal expression of wealth, of worth. This is an personal expression of what really matters.
The blessing – obvious. Those who need soon shall receive. Those who care living far away reach out to show they are there.
But within he compassion lies a risk – the risk so well articulated after the 2004 Tsunami, Katrina, Haiti – so many crises. The risk of “crisis fatigue”. With so much happening, with so many needy causes, how does one decide? How does one prevent the blessing of being able to help from turning into the burden of feeling obliged to help. Or worst – overwhelmed and exhausted by the unquenchable need?
Everyday, across the globe, needy causes are there, some more visible and fashionable than others. The gift? Being able to feel the sense of satisfaction in hitting SEND.
But that feeling need not be once/twice a year. And need not be focused on the high profile, high appeal causes. Global crisis remind us of the need to look local for projects, programmes, particular circumstances that, every month, beyond crisis but rather because they simply need the support, can benefit in some way from small contributions. Momentum of support is often far more valuable than masses of support once-off.
For those in need, every single day, ‘being there‘ is about being genuinely being present to address present day challenges, renewing future hope.
All it takes is hitting the pause button and thinking, feeling, which 2 to 3 projects feel right, and feel good in being a regular contributor.
The gift? That glowing feeling of “I’ve done something good for someone else, somewhere…because I can”
Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2013
The countdown is officially on, and the world is acutely focused on readiness watch. In less than 100 days the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympic Games and Paralympic Games will light the opening ceremony flame, the athletes will proudly parade behind their raised flags, and the games will begin.
With media attention and worldwide interest intensifying, the stats are becoming frequent soundbytes:
- Location: Russia’s mountain and sea resort town of Sochi with its 145km of coastline
- Stadium, Village and all other site design starting with a blank sheet of paper as no pre-existing facilities
- A unique, future ‘model’ Olympic site creation offering:
- 2 distinct clusters, 1 coastal for ceremonies, skating, hockey and other ice sports, 1 mountain cluster for skiing, sledding and other snow and hill based sports
- 1 close and cleanly connected transport system connecting the clusters
- Total bill to be paid for site development: US$ 51 billion
and of course,
- special mention of the special attention being paid to open up air access, visa regulations, and other usual travel technicalities that can slow down the speed of athletes and supporters getting into and around the Games.
As the world comes together in Sochi, the Olympic family and global sporting community going on show, a second stage is set and in full performance mode. And the price far exceeds that of the Olympic and Paralympic Games.
An Olympic size investment has been made by the nation of Russia in its global repositioning through being home to the host city of the 2014 Games. With each day of countdown until official opening of the world’s largest sporting event and one of the world’s trophy mega-events, Russia is under the spotlight, the heat only getting more and more uncomfortable. Human nature and interest is engaged in a hectic game of questioning Russia’s ability to deliver:
Will the stadiums be ready?
Will the transport systems work?
Will the media centre be able to manage the massive flows of journalists, networks, reporting, and networking?
Will the Olympic Village meet the needs of the athletes?
Will visitors feel welcome? Will they be safe?
Will the Games take home gold?
And what will happen to all of this after?
And these are just the points that Russia hopes to score from the international community. At home, the competition for credibility and support is as strong, if not stronger:
Why here, why now?
Why not invest in schools, hospitals, essentials?
Why make us work so hard so others can play?
For any nation that has hosted, or is in the process of readying for hosting, these questions are familiar echoes and aches. It happens everywhere – no mega-event has escaped, or will escape, the challenges. Even now the lingering voices of challenge hang over mega-events of recent past and imminent future be it the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa, the 2012 London Olympic and Paralympic Games, or the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brasil.
And yet event after event, year after year, nations put their hand up and wave them wildly with excitement, in hopes of playing host.
Because for so many nations, mega-events are the fuel for future nation building, internally and on the international stage. They being pain, no question, as questions put pressure on lead-up periods, and do not banish the pessimists even after successful execution. But without these events, the cost to a country could be so much higher.
Overtly, investment made by a city/country in a mega-event is about, at first priority level, the event infrastructure – stadium, media centre, accommodation, IT, airlines, airports, public transport, safety & security, etc.
Second layer: supporting though non-essential aspects – public space upgrades, secondary transport systems, the cosmetics
A mega-event forces adherence to delivery dates, especially where first priority aspects are concerned. The games will go on, as scheduled, second layer ready or not. The IOC, FIFA, BIE, heads of F1, etc have too much riding on on-schedule delivery to take a risk with their brand and business. This means that critical aspects of city and national infrastructure will be brought to life in time for the event, and kept alive long after. As are employable skills developed in the building process, even if the short-term employment in event creation come to an end.
In addition, these events allow for a mega-valet service of a host city / country space, making environmental improvements that have a lasting glow on host locations.
Finally, and critically, hosting allows hosts to cone together to heighten pride, productivity, profile and possibility. The threads of the national flag become stronger, more tightly woven together, more unified, for all at home and across the world to see. Identity is raised high.
Mega-events are never about “should we?” They are about “What if we didn’t?”
So, will Sochi be ready?
Yes. Because the 2014 Winter Games must go on. And national competition is fierce – far beyond sport – to allow for anything but aggressive efforts to come out on top.
As for the athletes, the Olympic dream for Sochi and Russia can and will become a reality with hope, a prayer, and a huge amount of hard work. There is simply too much invested in this moment, at all levels.
Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2013
Once again, just one month after a massive fire at NBO International Airport fire that stopped the movements of air transport (and interdependent tourist and trade flows), the hearts of the people of Kenya are stopped as terror has taken over a shopping mall in upscale Nairobi.
Once again, the world watches, sends prayers, questions what will happen next. In this case, it is not about flames of fire burning themselves out. These flames, flames kept burning strong by terrorist groups with terrifying intentions, have the potential of burning stronger, wider, longer.
Watching the news coverage, thoughts turn to people in Kenya – how their hearts must be aching. How their sense of security must be shattered. How their feeling of confidence of safety and peace of the future must be challenged.
How can one help?
It is at times like this when one is reminded of one of the immense blessings of travel. In seeing the world, in visiting new places, meeting new people, we create new relationships. While first contact may be through planned tourism play or business pursuits, even after the moment of meeting passes, the memory embeds itself in ways often far deeper in meaning than one expected. Through travel, the people one meets become more than contacts linked to a time and space – they become connections, in mind, and often in heart. These are the faces that eliminate the distance between ‘here‘ and foreign places.
And at times like these, these are the faces for whom one’s heart is sore…
These are simply people to start to matter, Because in some way they have touched our lives. And therefore remain in our lives and thoughts, especially when events in their part of the world reawaken images and echoes of time shared.
As our world moves forward, and we are able to go further out, in so many cases it brings us closer together, beyond any official/structured context. For this reason, therefore, at times like this it is so important to reconnect.
It happens quickly when there is reason to celebrate. But even more importantly, it must happen at times like these when shock and hurt are present in their lives. The connections we have made, people who have made a home in our hearts, must not feel alone. However far away they may be, reaching out to share a thought and prayer matters. A message, a word of strength, an expression of support keeps those we care about closer, and offers strength, regardless of geographic distance.
Travel brings the world together. Relationships keep it together.
As the people of Kenya work to hold their heads and hopes high in this time of tragedy, as a very special Kenyan shared just moments ago, “We are trusting God that we will come through stronger as a nation.”
How can one help? ‘Be there‘…even if one cannot physically be there.
May the blessing of travel, making these connections, remind of the need to use this gift to reconnect so that those needing support truly feel they are not alone.
– This month’s article is dedicated with love and strength to Muriithi and the team at KTB.
Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2013
As the stale scent of smoke lingers over the scorched remains of the international terminal of NBO airport in Kenya, so to do the questions. How did the fire start? What will be the value of the damage? How long will it take to recover? When will flights be back to normal?
The devastating, absolutely devastating, fire that broke out in Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi just days ago, simultaneously broke hearts as locals, tourists, traders, and members of the global community the world over thought over the implications of the inferno.
That moment in time was about so much more than simply an airport in flames.
It was about the almost two million tourists that use NBO as their first step of their African dream come true.
It was about the millions of fresh-from-the-farm rose stems grown across the country that use NBO as the start of their voyage to florists across the globe.
It was about the millions of Kenyans who rely on tourism, exports, agriculture and aviation, and NBO, for their chance to earn a living to be able to, first and foremost, feed their families and pay school fees.
Within hours of the fire breaking out, swiftly and without speculation around the ‘why‘ and ‘who’, the story became about the ‘what now’. As comprehensively covered by CNN, the NBO fire was about economic impact – what would this do to tourism and exports in Kenya, and across the regional and global trading zones that NBO served. How would this impact the lives of the people of Kenya.
Interestingly, and sadly, as with Iceland’s Eyjafjallajokull volcanic ash cloud in 2010 that, over its peak no-fly period of April 14-20, froze air travel with its cancellation of over 100,000 flights worldwide (costing an estimated US$ 200 million per day, according to IATA), leaving untold numbers of travellers stranded, and costing billions in export losses, the NBO fire of this past week put a bright, hot, emergency spotlight on the critical role of the aviation sector as the backbone for nations the world over – economically, socially and competitively. Without airline connectivity, many nations across the globe are simply locked out of the chance to create a future through global commerce, especially emerging nations.
As shared by IATA just weeks ago in their capture of 2012 Headlines around global aviation and its continued growth, “Systemwide, airlines carried 2.977 billion passengers on scheduled services. Developing economies continued to drive global demand growth: 65% of the growth in passenger numbers on international services in 2012 occurred on markets linked to emerging markets.”
Cargo, the invaluable belly of the aircraft, has unlocked markets across the globe to participate in export activity at levels that are lifting agriculture, manufacturing, and other industries to levels critical for greater GDP advancement and employment generation.
ATAG, in its 2010 review of the industry, estimated that the aviation sector is responsible for 56.6 million jobs worldwide, and generates over US$ 2.2 trillion in direct, indirect and tourism induced economic impact.
The bottom line – aviation, and travel and tourism, are essential to global economic and social connectivity, which in turn turns people of nations across the globe, especially the most needing of a chance for a better life, into productive, proud, hopeful citizen.
The NBO fire, still being assessed for immediate damage, will continue to have embers of fear slowly burning when it comes to understanding exactly what the long-term impact will be of the closure of this critical tourism and trade gateway.
As exposed with fiery poignancy just days ago, airports and airlines are about so much more than buildings and big metal birds. These sectors, paired, and as part of the greater global economic and social eco-system, are about keeping people looking up – literally, figuratively, globally.
Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2013