Renowned Guyanese cricket commentator Joseph ‘Reds’ Perreira was in Guyana recently for the final round game of the Carib Beer series between Guyana and the Windward Islands. Perreira was also in South Africa during the 2003 World Cup cricket competition. Stabroek Sports’ Donald Duff caught up with the veteran commentator who shared some of his views on what transpired in South Africa whilst looking at what the region needs to do to successfully host cricket’s World Cup in 2007.
DD:- What was your impression of the way the South Africans ran the 2003 World Cup and, given the present state of the West Indies World Cup 2007 plans, do you think that the region is on schedule?
RP:- I think overall the World Cup from an event point of view went very well. The internal transportation and the quality of seating all went very well. There were a lot of temporary seating used for the event. There’s a company which produces reliable comfortable temporary seating which is something that could be developed in the Caribbean using the South African model. They use that extensively for major events like soccer and rugby. The problem with the World Cup was the format. I think we’ll see a change in the format. There was a lot of flaws in how the event was run on the field of play. I don’t think we’ll see day and night matches and I don’t think we’ll see points going forward. And, I would think that although the logistics are difficult to have a reserve day, I think we’ll have reserve days so weather won’t become a factor.
DD:- What does Guyana need to do to host matches in 2007?
RP:- Well I think the World Cup Committee, headed by Norman Mc Lean, is trying to once and for all see whether Bourda is a suitable venue and a decision may be made very soon on that. I think once that has been decided then things can move very, very quickly. Not a lot of countries have gone down the road very far. A lot of countries are still in the early planning stages. Once a venue has been decided, Mc Lean and his group can very, very quickly draw level with the rest of the bids. I’m sure that the government will come on board as other governments are coming on board in the Caribbean.
DD:- What do you think the government’s input should be if they are going to support Guyana’s plans for hosting a World Cup game?
RP:- Well, obviously the question of financial support from the government is vital and I think that should be the major area. I think CARICOM is working on a different level which will include all the governments of the Caribbean where they might have one entry into the Caribbean like a World Cup passport. For example lets say you enter as a player or a journalist and you enter in Jamaica, that’s one entry. You wouldn’t need to have your passport stamped again. Those details will have to be worked out. There will be in fact a CARICOM position on the World Cup and Guyana will be part of that.
DD:- The view has been expressed that the hotel accommodation and transportation are not exactly up to the required international standards. Do you think there is a need to improve those areas and how?
RP:- Well it’s not easy to build hotel rooms right left and centre. You will have to ensure that when the World Cup is finished those hotels don’t stand as a white elephant. Some countries have a fair amount of infrastructure. What they did, and I’ll use the example of the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles which I covered, they used a lot of private housings and you can describe them as World Cup hospitality homes. For example it may be a realistic figure for 1000 ‘Bed and Breakfast’ World Cup hospitality homes to be secured in any one venue and I would think that Guyana could tackle some of the accommodation problem by of course going through a total exercise in acquiring a home that has the basic standards, and this has been done over and over at other international events.
DD:- How do you see the West Indies World Cup committee co-ordinating the event in the different territories?
RP:- The first thing that has to happen is that the bids have to go in.The bids have to be accepted and then an inspection, this will still be an ICC event so there will be ICC visits looking at venues, looking at security, looking at accommodation, travel, ways and means of accessing travel to the respective countries, your press and broadcast areas. I don’t think that venues will decided maybe until 2006.
DD:-Taking the entire 2007 bid into consideration how do you expect it to impact on business in the region not only during the World Cup but after?
RP:- Well the South African experience saw close to 40,000 people visiting during the World Cup. The Caribbean is well positioned to attract a lot of people from North america. There are also thousands and thousands of West Indians who live in North America and they are very, very close by. We can expect a tremendous World Cup with visitors from the United Kingdom. The UK is nicely positioned. The Caribbean is closer to the UK than to South Africa. It’s a 12-hour ride to South Africa and a seven-and-a-half hour journey from London to the Caribbean. The other things that have been talked about is the question of cruise ships. Cruise liners can play a part during the World Cup so that people can cover and watch the World Cup by using the cruise lines who will offer a package for the different matches.
DD:- What happens if the grounds in the region are unable to absorb these visitors?
RP:- Not all the grounds in South Africa were large grounds. I mean Port Elizabeth’s (which hosted the semi-final) capacity was only pushed up to 19000 and before that it was only 12000. So a lot of the venues in South Africa were venues that held capacities which is in keeping with what the Caribbean can offer. So I don’t think that ground capacity is going to be a problem. I think all the grounds will have to have a brand new press box as the president of the Barbados Cricket Association Stephen Alleyne, admitted in South Africa, there’s no press box that can stage a major World Cup, that will have to be improved now.
DD:- How do you see the race to host World Cup matches and who do you think will host matches?
RP:- I think the various venues who have strong commitments towards hosting World Cup matches in 2007 are all just about starting equal except those countries who are probably maybe trying to establish a new venue. In many cases the leading venues are all expected to be refurbished.
There are two new venues in the Caribbean which are St Lucia and Grenada and they are in good shape. One expects that Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago, Queen’s Park Oval, Kensington Oval, Sabina Park, the Antiguan Recreation ground, the Arnos Vale ground in St Vincent and to be decided the Bourda facility with a joint venture between GCC and the GFC, that also will go through like the rest of the grounds a total refurbishing. A lot of the test grounds are just about even in that sense. Grenada and St Lucia having built the new facilities they are in good shape.
DD:- What are some of the other factors that will determine who hosts and who doesn’t?
RP:- The transportation factor into your various countries. How many airlines flying, those are factors. That is something that the organising committee will have to look at along with the World Cup Committee. There’s also a question of accommodation. There’s no Caribbean country maybe except Barbados, St Lucia and Antigua, that has got maybe the hotel rooms and that’s just maybe. Trinidad doesn’t have it in Port-of-Spain, Jamaica doesn’t have it in Kingston, the majority of their hotels are way up in the North Coast so the question of hotel rooms become a factor. What has been the key also is the ability of a host country to attract the kind of volunteer system that we saw in South Africa. South Africa produced a brand new approach, a very commercial approach in organisation. In 1999, when I did the World Cup in England, you didn’t have that kind of volunteer system. And that is going to a be a very key component to any country in the Caribbean who is looking to host matches. To mobilise a volunteer system that is going to really help run the event.
The top brass in the organisation don’t really run the games on the day. It is those volunteers, who run the gates, who run the security, who run the press box, who run the media centre, who see people into the various parts of the ground. I think in relation to the Guyana situation the possibility of seeing Ogle as an airport destination may be extremely useful in Guyana’s bid. For if the smaller aircrafts can land at Ogle, maybe just 15-20 minutes away from Georgetown that’s a much easier way of getting people into your area or venues. There’s lots of time of course, to organise your security, lots of time to organise your traffic situation.
DD:- What was the transportation situation like in South Africa?
RP:- At the World Cup venues there’s was no way you could have gone by taxis. There was in fact a total closing off of the grounds. If you did in fact go by taxi, you in fact had to walk the last two or three blocks. For the opening game in Cape Town, you went to a specific point and then you went by transfer bus to the ground.
The security was heavy in South Africa, hopefully that will not be such a world problem in 2007. And the Caribbean is seen as a zone of peace and a zone where there is not a pressing day to day terrorism threat. If that continues to be so in 2007 the money spent on security in 2003 will not be needed to be spent on security in 2007. Not that they will not need security, One expects that the same kinds of checks that the press had, that the public had will be in place to ensure that what you carry into the ground is safe for all and of course there will be heavy checks on the kinds of products you carry into the ground, the kind of clothes you wear whether the clothes clash with the sponsorship.
They forced you to change your shirt inside out or your trousers inside out or if you were carrying a competing soft drink brand you had to drink it before you went into the ground.