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Monday, Jul 28, 2014

Bollywood comes to Tampa


Tampa this week will host festivities leading up to the International Indian Film Academy awards Saturday at Raymond James Stadium.

It is another signature event for the region, one that will bring it global attention.

Most residents are not familiar with “Bollywood” films, so the proceedings haven’t generated the same excitement that accompanied the 2012 Republican National Convention.

But this event could have even greater long-term impacts.

The awards ceremony is expected to attract 900 million television viewers across the globe as well as draw 30,000 or more visitors.

Tampa is more likely to become a travel destination or even a business location for people who learn about Tampa through IIFA.

Already, the selection of Tampa by IIFA has brought the city to the attention of Indian filmmakers, who plan projects here.

Residents should be impressed, and grateful, that local leaders quickly realized the importance of the awards, which a year or so ago they knew little about.

Their appreciation for other cultures and ability to collaborate with foreign representatives will surely bolster the region’s reputation and economic prospects.

IIFA officials clearly were impressed. Tampa is the first city in the United States to be chosen for the awards. Tampa also is expected to attract the largest IIFA awards crowd to date.

Hillsborough County Commissioner Al Higginbotham deserves enormous credit for his energetic recruitment efforts — which all grew from his work on behalf of Indian residents, who wanted a place to play cricket. Now two county parks have cricket fields.

Higginbotham had plenty of support, including Mayor Bob Buckhorn and Visit Tampa Bay President Santiago Corrada.

As with any major event, there may traffic jams or other hiccups.

But such inconveniences are a small price to pay for the excitement that will surround a glittery entertainment showcase that should elevate Tampa’s international standing.