Caribbean facing crisis over World Cup 2007
By Tony Cozier
January 29, 2004
|Related Links:||Articles on World Cup 2007|
|Letters Menu||Archival Menu|
The phrase most frequently heard since the ICC awarded the 2007 World Cup to the West Indies is "logistical nightmare". The tournament, after all, is unique. There is no such political entity as the West Indies.
For the first time in any sport a World Cup is to be staged in 10 independent countries, each with its own government, flag and anthem, all the former British colonies that constitute West Indies cricket.
Those who travel through the region have to deal with different immigration and customs procedures in each territory and make five currency changes at contrasting exchange rates.
Potential confusion will be compounded if the United States, Bermuda and Canada, ICC regional associates, are granted the match or two they are all likely to bid for before deadline in May.
None of the Caribbean territories hosting a match has a population larger than Jamaica's 3.4 million. Most others are less than quarter of a million.
Economies are small, infrastructures limited.
At present only the recently constructed stadia in two of the smaller islands, Grenada and St. Lucia, and the largest, the Queen's Park Oval in Trinidad, can be considered up to standard.
On-site practice facilities are confined to Queen's Park and St.Lucia's Beausejour Stadium. Queen's Park (28,000) is the only ground with capacity of more than 15,000.
Sixteen teams, more than ever before, have to be housed and moved from match to match over the five weeks.
So do the attendant media and the tens of thousands of disparate supporters expected to descend on one of the world's favourite holiday destinations.
Yet inter-island ferry services barely exist and the two main regional airlines have acronyms that are liberally, even literally, interpreted as Leave Island Any Time, Luggage In Another Terminal and Land In A Tree or Book Wait Indefinitely After, Better Wait In Airport and But Where Is Antigua?
Stir in the contrasts between the laid-back attitude associated with island life and the ICC's stringent stipulations on security and sponsorship and the size of the challenge is clear.
The ICC, though, has dismissed the idea of shifting the tournament, with its estimated income of $500m, to Australia, as recently speculated.
In October Chris Dehring, a Jamaican investment banker who is chief executive of Windies World Cup 2007, formed by the WICB to plan and run the event, spelt out to heads of government the work and commitment required to make it "the best World Cup there is" and there are signs that the message is getting through.
New stands have gone up at the Queen's Park Oval. Work starts soon on renovations to upgrade Barbados' Kensington Oval to include new stands and practice pitches. Guyana is to build a new stadium, still in the development stage, with financial assistance from the Indian government. Antigua is likely to follow suit.
In due course temporary seating will be rented where needed.
The leasing of aircraft and cruise liners to move spectators and media around the Caribbean - and, in the latter case, to house them - is on the cards.
The governments, members of Caricom, the Caribbean Community and Common Market, have committed themselves to issuing one World Cup "passport" to media and fans through the tournament to loosen possible ties of red tape.
More difficult may be education of the public over sponsors' rights.
West Indians feel it is their birthright to swig their Mount Gay Rum or Red Stripe Beer while Brian Lara is belting the opposition out in the middle. In 2007 it will have to be the booze of the sponsor who has spent millions to have its brand associated with the event. It's a big ask.
Tony Cozier is the Caribbean's leading cricket broadcaster and journalist. This article was first published in the January 2004 issue of The Wisden Cricketer.