Monday, June 28, 2010

The experience that is WIMBLEDON

In any sport, players are periodical but what remains forever is the arena where the characters earn their reputation and the longevity of these venues gives them the status of pilgrimage. Being played since 1877, Wimbledon qualifies to be one of those heritage destinations that bring the romance of sport to the forefront and the legacy continues to grow with every passing year as the event makes it return for ‘the fortnight’. Thanks to satellite television, the global population is a part of the legacy of the sporting arenas and events however to be at the venue to witness live action from the middle gives unparalleled joy to anyone for whom sports is a religion. The impression and the memories (s) he carries from those few hours become a part of the folklore and there is never any hint of tiredness while reliving those moments even after decades, hence making it longer than any series of soap opera. There is a twist or a turn every time the story is repeated at the dining table or over a cup of coffee. Being a student of sports, it was important to tick this box off before finishing the course so that the experience gained could qualify to be my learning from the degree. It turned out to be my best international sporting experience so far.

Ever since I have followed lawn tennis from 1995, Wimbledon has been the world cup of this sport for me and to be watching the first live tennis match at the venue brought back the memories of June-July 2009 when I was working on Nike India’s annual offsite project. The client wanted the 2nd night of the offsite (5th July 2009) on the finals of Wimbledon so that the whole of Nike India contingent could come together in front of the giant screen to cheer for one of their Nike athletes. In the epic final between Andy Roddick and Roger Fedrer, the elegance of the later fetched him the title much to the delight of Nike’s camp. Not even a year has passed by and I was watching the last year runner up play live at court 1.

Getting an entry to the mega event was always going to be a challenge as 90% of the tickets were sold out either through the ballot scheme or online or through debenture much in advance of the event. To fetch one of the limited 500 tickets that were being issued the night prior to the event for each of centre court, court 1 and court 2, the best option was to camp overnight like 1500 others however unlike others we were unprepared. The moment we got out of the Southfields tube station, the world looked so green and purple (the official colour of Wimbledon). Right from the decor to the signage leading to the village, every element was synchronised as per a particular pattern showcasing the immaculate organising skills and attention to details of The All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club and International Management Group (IMG). Every single human face running the show spoke the same language and wore the same uniform i.e. smiles. The facilities at the overnight queuing camp filled all basic needs however since we were late enough to fetch a centre court queue card by 200 numbers the camp tent shop had shut down. As the night temperature declined, the situation demanded a two hour to and fro walk to Asda on the motorway to fetch a camping tent. The celebration of Avinash’s birthday in the camp in our own little way made the camping experience much more memorable. As the sun rose, we packed the tents and proceeded towards the ticket counters. It was not before 9.30am that we finally lay our hand on the prized possession.

The atmosphere inside Wimbledon was festive and the excitement and anticipation of the crowd made the place bubbling with energy. A quiet wait observing the sea of humanity who had assembled from all across the globe ensured that the minute hand ticked faster than ever before and in no time the chair umpire had called play. The conduct of the matches, the display of professionalism by the ball boys/girls and their synchronised movement along the court, the intelligence of the crowd and the celebration of match points and set wins by the players made the 7 hours look like a glossy cover sheet.

Being a student of sports, I will hopefully visit Wimbledon more often than not in the years to come but the virgin feeling of 24th June 2010 will remain irreplaceable forever. It is indeed a must visit destination for anyone who is in England during ‘the fortnight’ because truly it is the experience that is Wimbledon.

Those of us who made it to the day 5 of the championship: Wimbledon 2010:
Court 1
• Binay Agarwal (London)
• Nishant Kumar Sethi (Leeds)
• Leo Liu (Sheffield)
• Sidhanta Patnaik (Sheffield)

Court 2
• Avinash Pinto (Sheffield)

Matches witnessed
Court 1
• Gentlemen’s Singles-Rd 3- Novak Djokovic(3) bt Albert Montanes (6-1, 6-4, 6-4)
• Ladies’ Singles-Rd 3-Venus Williams bt Alisa Kleybanova (6-4, 6-2)
• Gentlemen’s Singles-Rd 3-Andy Roddick(7) bt Phillp Kohlschreiberr(35) (7-5, 6-7 (5), 6-3, 6-3)

Court 2
• Ladies Singles-Rd 3-Kim Clijsters bt Maria Kirilenko (6-3,6-3)
• Ladies Singles-Rd 3-Jelena Jankovic bt Alona Bondarenko (6-0, 6-3)
• Gentlemen’s Singles-Rd 3-Jurgen Melzer(16) bt Feliciano Lopez(30) (4-6,6-3,6-2,6-4)
• Ladies’ Dobules – Serena/Venus Williams bt Timea Bacsinszky/Tathiana Garbin (6-1, 7-6(2))


Sidhanta Patnaik
28th June 2010 (Monday)

For snaps, if you are on Facebook please click on

Thursday, June 3, 2010

The Times of Sheffield (2009-2010)

At the beginning of this journey in September 2009, very few would have envisaged the end because for the majority it was a step into the uncertainty. With the completion of classroom life and arrival of June 2010 it can be acknowledged that this phase has set the platform for us to aspire for bigger goals.

Before leaving our respective countries, we had dreamt and visualised of a certain kind of a lifestyle but the initial weeks presented the biggest challenge of cultural differences as 80% of the batch consisted of international students. Being in an alien environment triggered us to come up with ways to get along and form social groups that enabled us to communicate and share over the period of our stay. A 68% turnout for the icebreaker party in October was an indication of every one’s willingness to use this once in a lifetime opportunity to integrate into the global village. However with time, the classroom timetable dominated the pattern of camaraderie as more relationships were built over the financial accounting and operation management assignments. The Information Commons turned out to be biggest night club of the city for obvious reasons.

Christmas 2009 presented the toughest test of this journey. Great Britain’s worst winter in the last thirty years became the nemesis and created blankness in the environment as the city got deserted. It was a mental trial and the motivation levels continued to descend with every passing day as activities were curtailed and staying indoors was the only available option. In a few weeks time, the overpowering of the virtual world over the real world started intimidating us as staring and fiddling with our Facebook profile became a hourly affair. The habit raised a few back slapping questions and every lonely walk to the University was an unsuccessful attempt to find those answers. All of a sudden the emptiness got filled with mixed thoughts and led us towards deeds for which we may or may not feel proud. However it all came as a package and enabled us to think critically beyond the top layer or our mind and stretched us ahead of our limitations. All the hardships we underwent now look so beautiful in the hindsight. Spending time alone and doing various things for the first time in our life, made us mentally much stronger and eventually boosted our learning curve. Wherever we go in life, ‘experience Sheffield’ will continue to inspire us.

Tomorrow as the nostalgia settles down and the reality takes over, we will realise the importance of brand ‘The University of Sheffield’ on our resume as new avenues will slowly start opening up in the corporate world. The global network that we managed to form is the biggest takeaway out of these 37 weeks. Social networking sites give us an edge over history and now the onus lies on the individual to leverage the maximum out of these relationships.

The base is now set and the world is our oyster. Though different directions await each one of us after September 2010 yet the memories and learning’s of season 2009-2010 will keep us connected forever. As we get ready to walk out with much more confidence than ever before let us wish each other success, the way we have defined it.

The next meeting of ours might well be inside a board room for a multi billion deal in some remote corner of the globe. The day is not that far away when the city of Sheffield will be proud of us and for that we should thank both the teaching and non-teaching staff of the University for having played a major role in creating ‘experience Sheffield’ for us.

Sidhanta Patnaik
Msc. Management (Sports & Leisure)
The University of Sheffield.

P.S – Below mentioned are a few responses to the question – What has been your biggest takeaway/learning from this year?

•“To know how to operate within complicated group dynamics at a professional level without hampering the personal relationship.” – Leo (Taiwan)

•“Communicating with the world is fun :)” – Alex (Malaysia)

•“Different people have different expectations and the ability to manage them under trying conditions instead of giving up comes from self belief and confidence.” – Elisabet (Cyprus)

•“Though we were sarcastic through the entire journey but these course works and international socials have eventually helped us to grow and given us a chance to make friends from different parts of the world. “ – Ariana (Israel)

•“To prioritize independent work and team work at different times of the year.” – Sherry (China)

•“The best thing is that I have learnt how to cook.” – Shariz (Srilanka)

•“I have had many great experiences in the past year, but what lies closest to my heart is to have really experienced what it means to be living in a global village. Making friends from literally across the globe just reminded me that in the end, it's always about human connection. I can say that I have successfully broken free from the shackles of stereotyping!” – Rohit (India)

•“I take a lot of things with me from this course but if I have to choose one then it is the friends that I made from across the globe!”– Amir (Iran)

•After 8 hours of waiting at the airport, 2 transit flights, 5 hours of idle time on the runway in the flight, flight going off the runway just before takeoff and 8 hours of flying time, it just feels great to be back home.  - Vaibhav (India)’s Facebook status message after reaching home.