Breaking the silence

Stabroek News
July 20, 2003

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The silence which had clouded the government’s position with regards to the 2007 Cricket World Cup in the West Indies has been broken by none other than the president of Guyana, Bharrat Jagdeo. We at Sportscope take heart from this positive sign since it has come at a time when Guyanese (local and overseas) felt we needed answers and fast.

What is even more significant to the nation is that the president (SN 18-07-03) has virtually committed all of us to a project which can only redound to the benefit of each and every patriotic Guyanese.

Sportscope had observed a deafening silence from our government in the past when our competitors (for hosting matches) albeit our Caricom `brothers and sisters’ had already committed themselves to either build new stadiums or extend existing ones.

The sloth with which Guyana had responded is questionable but nevertheless the president has categorically stated that the government is, “examining two proposals from private groups to build a multi-purpose stadium” and further, that, “the government intended to throw its weight behind proposals for the construction of a stadium.”

This is good news for Guyana and comes as a breath of fresh air. Indeed and we at Sportscope would like to commend Mr Jagdeo for finally committing to a worthy national cause.

We also feel that the president has `seized the moment’ and a completed stadium may just be the legacy that he may want to leave as a current and former leader of this country.

Several other issues arose out of the disclosures made by the Commander-in-Chief including the building of a `complex’ to house 4,000 persons and a shopping mall to cater for visitors, as well as the construction of 500 houses for the event which will be sold after the World Cup.

In addition, the president has stated that the government is willing to give tax concessions on materials for construction as well as providing land for the stadium.

Sportscope would like to suggest that government set up a task force immediately to `fast-track’ this national project since `time is of the essence’.

It may also be an opportune time to seek help from knowledgeable persons in society and to also consult with stakeholders (including the opposition) since this is an issue with national ramifications.

The reason being that the government may be accused of `playing politics’ since the next general elections are due in 2005. However with proper consultation this charge can be diminished to some extent.

We at Sportscope are not politicians but realists, since Guyanese life of recent has been anything but apolitical.

The president has also made some other interesting observations in relation to the cost and location of such a facility.

According to him it would cost approximately US$15 million (G$291M) to build a modern stadium and that to restructure Bourda and the GFC grounds would not cost much less.

Hence, it would appear from the comments of the president that he is not too keen on the idea of the merger between Bourda and GFC since he is quoted as saying, “that did not seem to be going anywhere”.

That being the case the next viable option seems to be the Liliendaal area immediately west of the new Caricom Headquarters and a stone’s throw from the University of Guyana.

This option holds a lot of promise for various reasons since it is located on the outskirts of the city and within reach in about five minutes. The Ogle airstrip is also five minutes away and may serve as a hub for smaller aircraft and with another access road to it this airport may prove to be strategically positioned for take-off. As a consequence we at Sportscope feel that that project can be done in tandem with developments at this site.

In addition several other issues are worth taking note of, for instance, there is a drainage pump just East of the Ocean View International Hotel which may assist in drainage, university students/athletes can utilize the facilities, employment will be generated and the latest technology will arrive on our shores especially in the telecommunications arena.

All Guyanese are familiar with the build up of traffic on the East Bank highway especially in the rush hour period. Expanding the Ogle Airstrip to accommodate more light aircraft can help to reduce traffic in the intervening period since visitors can be flown from Timehri to Ogle by air and then to the venue which will be just a few minutes away.

However, the president has tossed in a caveat and has warned that the stadium not become `a white elephant’ and he is right. But the question remains, who should ensure that it does not?

What this means is that the government’s policy and vision of sports must be clearly, concisely and precisely spelt out. The emerging consensus from such efforts should incorporate national goals for sports with a view of producing sportsmen and women of the highest calibre and who can hold their own in the international arena.

Sportscope has by no way exhausted all the subject matter intertwined and interrelated as regards this issue. A National Stadium though if it comes to fruition, can make us proud as a nation once again.