Saturday, 2 November 2013 00:00
By D.C. Ranatunga
Walk up the steps of the new-look BMICH just opened after extensive refurbishment. As you move along the newly-added canopy, the posh red carpet greets you.
On either side of the passage are colourful national flags of different countries. The first flag on the left side is the Sri Lanka lion flag. The Chinese flag leads the line on the right.
Before getting on to the passage on the right wall is the striking oil painting of Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike participating in the construction of the BMICH. Just below is the newly-installed plaque to mark the opening of the refurbished hall.
The plaque carries the wording: “Bandaranaike Memorial International Conference Hall, the proud symbol of enduring China-Sri Lanka friendship, having rendered forty years of service since its establishment on 17th May 1973, now fully modernised to ensure its future sustenance with funding by the People’s Republic of China, was ceremonially opened by His Excellency Mahinda Rajapaksa, President of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka and Chairman of the Bandaranaike National Memorial Foundation, on Thursday 24th October 2013.”
Done in Sinhala and English on the left and Tamil and Chinese on the right, the shining plaque features the Sri Lankan and Chinese flags in the centre.
At the end of the Etiquette Hall are the busts of Prime Ministers S.W.R.D. and Sirimavo Bandaranaike as a mark of respect and a constant reminder of the friendship between Sri Lanka and China.
Walking up the steps from either side, you reach the revamped lounge leading to the entrance to the Conference Hall. Notice the new windmill light fittings.
Once inside you notice the change of colour from the earlier blue we were used to, to maroon. The maroon cushioned chairs are more comfortable. In fact, the hall can now accommodate 1,600 – an increase of 100 seats. There are 600 seats on the lower deck, 860 in the balcony.
Advanced technological features
Pointing out the advanced technological features in the new-look BMICH, Director General, Bandhula Ekanayake specifically mentions the improvements on the stage, particularly to suit musical performances, stage dramas, ballets and other performing arts. The lighting scheme has been modernised and the sound system equipped with the latest tools.
Watching the musical show on the first day after the inauguration, the audience could certainly feel the difference.
Revamped Committee Rooms
The BMICH Committee Rooms have been revamped to suit any type of meetings, conventions and conferences of national or international scale. The three different sizes of committee rooms can be adjusted to suit different occasions.
Committee Room A can accommodate 350 in class room style. There is flexibility in Committee Room B to have 200 in classroom style and 400 in theatre style. ‘U’ shape seating can accommodate 200. Each of the A and B Committee Rooms has a floor area of 375 sq.m. Both have facilities for simultaneous interpretations in seven languages. Committee Rooms C and D – with 175sq.m floor area in each – have the facility of adjusting the seating styles. Each can accommodate 80 in classroom style, 160 in theatre style and 80 in ‘U’ shape seating.
The seating capacity in each of the smaller Committee Rooms E and F – each 90 sq.m of floor space – works out to 40 in classroom style, 80 in theatre style and 30 ‘U’ shape.
Special attention has paid to improving the facilities of the BMICH. Among the new features is the accessibility to the differently-abled with the addition of separate elevators and toilet facilities in the main hall as well as all committee rooms.
While the Chinese Government has met the entire costs amounting to Rs. 2 billion, the Beijing International Architectural Institute acted as consultants in the construction of the original building as well as the refurbishing project.
As the first purpose-built conference centre in Asia, the Bandaranaike Memorial International Conference Hall stands as a fitting tribute to a great statesman. It has cemented the friendship between two countries.
Built 40 years ago, the BMICH is today more elegant, more comfortable and classy.
Pix by Sarath Perera