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MipCom 2015: Combating nature's fury, and winning

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MUMBAI: The world’s largest TV content market Mipcom was hit by a freak storm and floods. It all started on Saturday 5 October when late in the evening what was predicted to be an evening of gentle rain, turned out to be three hours of a raging thunderstorm. Something that had not happened in 50 years. Seven inches of rain fell in one fell swoop. Some 20 people died, and cars were swept out to sea. 

The Hotel Martinez where MipJunior (the kids content screening and conference) was being held was the most affected. It lost power because of the flooding, internet went off and its ballrooms were water logged. As were most of Cannes and its surrounding towns.

Reed Midem, the organiser of MipCom and MipJunior acted fast. Overnight the MipJunior screenings and conferences were shifted to the higher levels of the Palais des Festivals.

The Palais itself was hit by the storm. The basement area (P-1), which constitutes a large part of the exhibition area and where most of the Indian exhibitors are located, had patches, which were damaged courtesy the flooding. The management of the Palais des Festivals and Reed Midem’s operations executives worked through late Saurday night and Sunday to mop up the excess water, used drying machines, changed carpeting, to get the exhibition area spic and span.

Came Monday morning and to the astonishment of exhibitors and participants, MipCom started on time. Almost as if the resort town had not faced a natural catastrophe. There were queues at the registration desk, and queues waiting to get into the exhibition area. The rest of Cannes, was however, struggling with some areas being without power, most without internet and telephone lines. And most bank ATMs and credit machines were not working.

In fact, the mayor of Cannes, has made an appeal to the world of film, television and the rich to contribute to get Cannes back on its feet. The town and its businesses have suffered a loss of Euro 45 million courtesy the freak rain.

During Mipcom business deals, and alliances were struck and TV premieres held. .Hollywood and British celebrities such as Dennis Quaid, Chris Carter, Lily James, Tuppence Middleton and Stephen Rea mingled with attendees after the screenings in the Grand Auditorium. The opening party was shifted to the Carlton Hotel from the Martinez and the red carpet, however, was canceled. Sponsored by Turkey, which was the country of honour or focus, it was one of Mipcom’s finest organised parties in recent times. The food and wine flowed till past midnight.

Overall, 13,700 executives from 112 countries did make it to Mipcom, a record of sorts. More than 150 broadcasting, production, animation, digital, content distribution, and buyers and sellers from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka jetted their way to Cannes - a record number for the region this year. Each probably has his or her own story on what he/she did during the deluge. We present a first person account of what one such group went through during the storm and thereafter. Read on:

The lightning shards continuously cut through the dark incessant rain as the 500 or so guests at MipJunior’s opening night inside the tent on The Martinez Beach in Cannes partied.

They sipped away at their glasses of wine and munched away at the entrees, exchanging business cards on programming pitches – blissfully unaware that the French Riviera village was going through its worst thunderstorm in almost 50 years.

As the clock ticked away, the gusts of wind grew stronger, and one such blast shattered a few wine glasses, the chandeliers overhead swayed. A couple of the lights went out. Then the water from the sea outside started seeping under the tent as the angry storm pushed the waves higher.

Jackie – the event and operations in charge of Reed Midem was worried – as she – like Laurine and Jerome and most of us attending the world’s largest content market – had heard the metro department’s report that there would be rain – but the prediction was that it would be a passing shower. Not a continuous cloud burst on account of which the village and other surrounding ones would be inflicted with the equivalent of more than a month and a half of rain in just three hours.

The situation was getting alarming as the rain, loud thunder, lighting and wind continued. Would the tent hold? The DJ had already been told to pack his console, the wine and food put away by the stewards. And the guests, who had thinned down to 200 odd by then,  had to be kept safe. Thus a decision was taken to evacuate.

A warning shout went up: “The entire Croisette is flooded. I tried to cross but there’s too much water.”

But evacuate we had to. So some of us took off our shoes and jackets, packed them in the Mask of Zorro bags, which the concierge provided us, rolled up our trousers, walked out of the tent. And indeed where earlier in the evening there was beach sand, all we could see was water. Carefully, we walked through it and up the stairs to the Croisette.

What greeted us was a sea of water all through the main street of Cannes. We stepped into it and it reached up to our knees. And it was cold, bitingly cold. But gritting our teeth and with sheer disbelief in our hearts we trudged through it across the street to the famed Hotel Martinez – which has been home to the world’s biggest celebrities. Were we in Cannes the famed beach town of France to which the world flocks every summer? Or were we in some south east Asian country or in India where such flooding is rather common?

As we reached the Martinez Hotel we heard there were no shuttles to ferry us across to our apartments or hotel rooms. And that we were on our own. We picked up a couple of hotel umbrellas and decided to make our journey home.

Every street, by lane and tony street was flooded. To make matters worse, the village’s sewer and drainage system had spewed and vomited out all the waste - including feaces – which its denizens had earlier through the day dumped down commodes or waste disposal systems.

Most of the by lanes leading to the Croisette were angry torrents of fast paced water through which it was very difficult to swim, forget about walking. And yet everywhere we looked there were executives - both men and women - plodding through the knee-deep water. It was a struggle, no doubt, but move everyone had to know because the water was chilling.

Thankfully, there were no open manholes or sewers, but we were cautious nonetheless courtesy Mumbai’s dangerous streets during the monsoons every year.

What was even more shocking was that expensive stores, hawking the most premium brands, which line the main street opposite the Croisette were hit by the water flowing down the streets towards the sea. Many of the stores were forced to garbage some of the goods, costing thousands of euros, which were damaged by the flowing waters.

We waded through the water, taking care not to get clothes wet. Close to our apartment building, a SUV came racing, through the flooded street and the wave hit us as well as the restaurant, which was already knee deep in water. And all my efforts to keep my trousers dry came to naught.

Even the apartment’s stairwell was flooded. But we made our way up and thankfully our flat had power, unlike others which went without any electricity throughout the night. We took quick hot showers and sipped hot cups of coffee and it was around 1 am that we managed to get some shuteye.

Posted by Larysa Wanvari on Sunday, October 4, 2015

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