The time is now
Stabroek News
July 21, 2003

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President Jagdeo’s recent statements on Guyana’s plans for hosting 2007 World Cup matches have helped to refocus public attention on what was quickly threatening to become a lost cause. In a nutshell, the President said that the government would provide concessions, but no financing, for a multi-purpose stadium which after the World Cup would be utilised for other sports (can we have a built-in high quality velodrome now?) and should not become the proverbial white elephant. Attached to the stadium would be a complex boasting a shopping mall and housing for approximately 4,000 fans.

The government would not provide financing - in these tough times it is difficult to do so - but concessions would be made available for material and land might also be granted by the state for the construction of the stadium which could cost around US$15M. Quite worrying, the President said that if the government left it up to the independent committee that had been set up the project might not be completed as he had gathered that the committee was not in a position to raise the requisite financing. Noting that hosting World Cup matches would require the provision of a broad range of services such as reliable transportation the President said that a national effort would be required to put the country on show.

There is no doubt that each and every Guyanese would feel inestimable pride at hosting matches in the most prestigious tournament of what is the national pastime. With the trials and tribulations of the past and those ahead of us the Guyanese collective can do with this honour. We want to host it but do we have what it takes? The answer is yes but we haven’t shown the energy and initiative that is required.

Having known for several years now that we had to begin positioning ourselves to win matches in the Cricket World Cup 2007 we are only now literally getting down to the drawing board. The Guyanese collective - particularly our cricketing infrastructure and the government - has failed hopelessly in the task ahead. We have been shown up rather embarrassingly by our brothers and sisters in Caricom. St Lucia’s Beausejour Stadium was recently on show, the Spice Island, Grenada’s facility is now a fixture on international tours and Barbados is moving industriously towards transforming Kensington Oval and seriously challenging to host the finals and more matches than most on the strength of its tourism credentials. Trinidad, of course, is Trinidad and Jamaica is also well positioned.

There is no more time for lamentations and half-measures, the time is now. The local world cup committee must become a household name and come out in the open to address the public on its efforts and to spell out exactly what roles there are for all of us from the venture capitalist to the volunteer, from the taxi-man to the hotel owner, from the fan to the disinterested pensioner.

A decision on a stadium or the unlikely merger of the Georgetown Cricket Club and the Georgetown Football Club Ground, has to be taken very soon and mobilization started. This is so because the local committee will know very well that the Cricket World Cup 2007 Venue Assessment Team - which will decide who gets what - is in the process of being constituted. How a plan in draft here will fare in a straight contest with St Lucia’s Stadium for preliminary matches is not too difficult to work out. Guyana’s glorious cricketing heritage is no automatic admission to the hosting of matches and that should be clear in all of our minds. The competition is likely to be cut-throat and with the behemoths to the north beckoning there is a real possibility that we could be left without matches. It is as simple as that.

Raising US$15M for a stadium will not be an easy task and the local committee has to have some definite plan as to who will guarantee a loan or invest such sums in a stadium, where it will be located and to begin awarding contracts.

The cricket world cup must be seen as a fabulous marketing opportunity for all of Guyana. It is potentially lucrative not only to the private sector but also to the government which could benefit from tourism revenues, the advertising of Guyana as a place to do business and the spirit of togetherness which the event will no doubt kindle here. Therefore, it is not unreasonable to expect that in addition to land and other concessions that the government would contribute a sum towards the construction of the stadium.

Enough said. It is now time for the local committee to be heard from.