Of facilities and World Cup plans

Stabroek News
September 30, 2001

In Barbados they are making big plans to host the World Cup cricket final when the tournament comes to the West Indies in 2007

But now is far from the best of times to talk of sports facilities construction in Guyana.

The national football stadium fiasco which hit the nation like a ton of bricks last week is just one of the many injustices Guyana's sport has endured in its existence, especially since the post independence period.

Cricket fans have had to deal with numerous washout of Tests and other international matches by rain here, our boxers have suffered many unfair decisions in the ring and most significantly the best ever Olympics team was withdrawn from the 1976 Montreal Games when it was thought that sprinter James Wren Gilkes only needed to show up to win our first ever gold medal.

So far our sportspersons have never enjoyed the benefits of a stadium whether it be multipurpose or one purely for football or athletics.

This past week all hopes raised high by lots of sweet talk of FIFA funding for the first ever football stadium, dissolved in a cloud of despair after the Guyana Football Federation had the audacity to mislead the President and the entire nation into believing that a significant sum of money was fortcoming from the world football ruling body, to realise that dream.

Then to add salt to the wounds, word from Barbados indicated they have started plans to acquire a good enough facility better than everything else in the region, to host the World Cup final when

Guyanese administrators are only toying with the idea of identifying a venue to develop.

It has reached a stage where when we are approaching the starting line, the Barbadians have shot out of the blocks to meet the stringent standards set for grounds to host a match in the World Cup, much less the final.

While the Bajans have the confidence to draft plans to transform Kensington Oval into the Lord's or Melbourne of the Caribbean, we are still talking about merging the GCC and GFC grounds for the big occasion in 2007.

Even if the administration of the Guyana Football Federation (GFF) is like chalk to cheese in comparison to the Guyana Cricket Board, the problems being encountered to have the football stadium, should be an eye opener to GCB, in his quest find a ground to meet World Cup standards.

This idea of merging the GCC and GFC has amounted to nothing more than just substanceless talk which has been going on for much too long now.

Two thousand and seven (2007) may seem very far away to the cricket fan but in reality time is fast running out for the GCB to stage the biggest ever sports event in the country.

This undertaking of hosting major sports events is extremely demanding these days and deadlines are harsh.

A good example is the pressure being exerted on the Athens Olympics organising committee to be ready for the next Games.

Even though they most of their facilities are close to completion, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has warned that they are behind scheduled for the Games in 2004.

With a little more than five years to go for the World Cup, the Bajans have signalled to all and sunder it is time to get cracking.

Like the GFF, the GCB have been promised some form of financial help from the ruling body, in this case the West Indies Cricket Board.

But with the board's current poor economic state, the GCB will be ill advised to depend on such. Even if the GCB's financial status improves tremendously in the near future, one cannot be certain the executive which could change every two years, will honour ex president Pat Rousseau's promise, when the time is due.

Thus we have to do much more than getting the GCC and GFC authorities to agree. The source of funding to acquire bigger and fully equipped dressing rooms, practice facilities, electronic scoreboard and rehabilitated stands among other needs, will have to be addressed now.

But even before that hurdle is overcome, the powers that be, must get a decision from GCC and GFC on the merger with the utmost urgency.

Failing which our World Cup dream might dissolve into fantasy.

And a great pity it would be, to have so called Less Developed Countries (LDC's) like Grenada and St Lucia who are likely to have modern grounds by then, representing West Indies at the expense of Guyana, when it matters most in the region's biggest cricket spectacle.