World Cup 2007
Business Opportunities for the Private Sector
Across the Board from the West Indies Cricket Board
Stabroek News
December 8, 2002

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Chris Dehring, managing- director of Windies World Cup 2007 Inc., addressed the Barbados Chamber of Commerce & Industry in Bridgetown two Wednesdays ago on the scope of opportunities for the business community in the island and the Caribbean.

Today, ACROSS THE BOARD brings you the second part of his speech

THE 2007 WORLD CUP will attract visitors, the likes of which have never been seen in the Caribbean in any concentrated time-period, spending more money than the current tourists, and more time.

And do not believe that the traffic will be limited by the size of our stadiums. I was at the 1999 final at Lords when Australia played Pakistan. The 15,000 or so Pakistanis inside the ground were not of particular interest to me. It was the 10,000 Pakistanis outside the ground who couldn't get a ticket, but wanted to be there in the event Pakistan won.

When the match was over, you had 25,000 Pakistanis and maybe another 15,000 Australians all dressed up and nowhere to go because the authorities thought of the World Cup final as a cricket match. When the match was over, they expected everyone to go home. But that is not the World Cup.

The World Cup is an opportunity to celebrate the game and its multiplicity of constituents. The event in 2007 will not make that mistake and the non-cricket events (the concerts, the banquets, the theme-parks, the parties, the food fairs) must be as big and as spectacular as the cricket matches. We know how to entertain in the Caribbean and the world must know it when the 2007 event is over.

I want to share some of the challenges that we face in hosting the 2007 World Cup because it is in recognising and understanding these challenges that the tremendous opportunities for the private sector emerge.

The most obvious of our challenges is that of our cricket stadiums. I know I tread very gingerly when I speak of cricket stadiums in the Caribbean. In Barbados, "the Mecca" - Kensington Oval - is thought and spoken of by Barbadians with the reverence more fitting a cathedral of-worship. Given its history, so it should. The great history, aura and spiritual resonance of this stadium as a monument to Barbadian and West Indian cricket-achievement is sacrosanct.

I get goose-pimples just entering Kensington Oval, the images of Sir Garfield Sobers, Sir Frank Worrell and Rev. Wes Hall, men who graced the hallowed turf, have built brand-equity into the Oval that is precious, priceless and timeless. That legacy has to be nurtured, developed and preserved.

But when it comes to hosting the cricket World Cup, we speak not of Kensington Oval, or Sabina Park, or Bourda Oval as the great centres of West Indies cricket history, but purely as a physical specimen of a spectator-accommodating sporting facility.

The World Cup Master Plan has just been approved by the WICB and will begin to be rolled out in earnest in January 2003. A fundamental pillar of that plan is to maintain the distinctive element of competition between the potential venues in the Caribbean. And in that regard, ˘all grounds are equal.

To assist the West Indies Cricket Board with assessing venues for the allocation of matches, professional venue- development master-planners will be contracted as part of a venue-assessment team to do an assessment of the venues on offer, as put forward by countries interested in hosting matches.

The definition of venue in this case is the country or city, and it is important to understand that all the facilities of the venue will need to be assessed: the airport and marine facilities, the hotels and other types of accommodation, the transportation and, of course, the cricket stadium.

In this regard, it won't matter to professional venue master-planners the special mystique attached to Kensington Oval. They won't care too much that the great George Headley made 270 not out against England at Sabina Park. And they will not recognise Rohan Kanhai's special moments at Bourda.

These are professionals who have performed similar assessments for football's World Cups and for the Olympics. They will assess your venues and your stadiums objectively for the quality and quantity of physical facility that they are, and on the basis that a World Cup is being staged in the Caribbean and that suitable venues and stadiums will be required to stage a world-class event.

There will also be no such thing as a traditional venue. The so-called traditional venues - Jamaica, Barbados, Trinidad & Tobago and Guyana - will all have to submit a competitive bid like everybody else and will receive no preferential treatment.

This is not only a policy agreed by the WICB and incorporated in the WICB's World Cup master-plan, but was a particularly important issue enunciated by many of the Prime Ministers at the Caricom Heads of Government summit in July of this year.

Countries which have invested in new facilities like Grenada, St. Lucia, St. Vincent & the Grenadines and Antigua & Barbuda insisted on an assurance that when it comes to the 2007 World Cup, they will be treated on an equal basis with the so-called-traditional venues. They shall.

They, and indeed all the other countries under the aegis of the WICB, are just as much an integral part of West Indies cricket as the so-called traditional countries.

If there is a problem with the United States, Cayman or the Bahamas participating in the bid process, then the appreciation and understanding of globalisation and the understanding of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2007 being a global event with the WICB and ICC having international responsibilities, is not clear. I hope it is now clear.

Generally, the cricket stadiums in the Caribbean are in poor shape. We average around 15,000 in minimal quality-seating capacity against an average of 30,000 high-quality seating which will be required to host 2007 World Cup. Old stadiums need to be refurbished and new stadiums need to be built, but we don't need permanent seating of that capacity.

Technology has advanced to such an extent that many of the stadiums you see at the Olympics, for instance, are temporary stadiums. We don't want to be left with the proverbial "white elephants" when the 2007 World Cup is over.

Yes, we would love to have a 40,000- or 50,000-seat stadium for the final, but after the 2007 World Cup, we don't need such capacity. Work on our stadiums is needed, but we must be smart about it and not waste resources.

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