FORT WAYNE, Ind. (Indiana’s NewsCenter) – Overnight employees of the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum spent the early morning hours setting up for the monumental visit of Aung San Suu Kyi.
In a news conference last week, IPFW Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs George McClellan said he expected at least 5,000 Burmese attendees from Fort Wayne, Midwestern cities and Canada, in addition to at least 2,000 students. The total number could grow to 10,000, and Coliseum Executive Vice President and General Manager Randy Brown says the coliseum is prepared for enough seating, if necessary, for 12,000.
“We feel good that we’re going to have enough capacity for tomorrow. It’s really unknown as a non-ticketed event. We don’t know what to expect, but there’s been a real sense of excitement in the community with Aung San Suu Kyi coming. How often do you get to hear a Nobel Prize winner come to speak in your community?”
On the floor level, 1,500 seats are designated for disabled guests, VIPs and some first-come, first-serve attendees. The remaining guests will sit in the elevated seats. Brown says 5,000-7,000 guests on a Tuesday morning at 9 a.m. would be an overwhelming success. To see 10,000 arrive would be a “wow,” he says.
Coliseum doors will open Tuesday morning at 7:30. Brown says the event, which includes speeches from Fort Wayne Mayor Tom Henry (D), IPFW Chancellor Vicky Carwein and local Burmese activist and head of Suu Kyi’s welcoming committee Tun Oo, will begin promptly at 9:00 a.m. Burmese children will also be a part of the ceremony and are expected to present Suu Kyi with flowers as is customary in Burmese culture.
Brown reminds attendees that security will be tight and is asking all guests to leave bags, bulky coats, flowers and gifts outside the coliseum. While he cannot comment on specific security practices or the number of event staff that will be in the coliseum, he does say there will be a security check for each person attending.
“There will be a full security review as you come in, and just plan accordingly. It’s going to take a little bit of extra time, but we’ve got enough staff, enough security people. We fully anticipate having everyone in their seats before 9:00 a.m.,” he says.
Brown says signage displayed in both English and Burmese will be used to expedite the process.
Suu Kyi’s address will be made in Burmese with English translations provided on the coliseum’s scoreboard and video projectors. The translation process, as Brown explains, is an undertaking that begins in Fort Wayne, makes a stop in Boston and then returns to Fort Wayne.
“The translator's feed will be sent to Boston where it will be transcribed and sent back to us and put up on—for us to put up on the TV broadcast, but also on the scoreboards and on the video projection boards that we are going to have around. So just think of the technology aspect of this alone. It’s pretty amazing.”
Local viewers will be able to catch Suu Kyi’s comments live on WFWA-TV, channel 39. Her address will also be carried live in China and Myanmar. Brown says he has fielded a tremendous amount of media inquiries for the event and says he would not be surprised if network and cable news channels arrived Tuesday morning as well.
The event is expected to end close to 10:45 a.m.
Admission is free.
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