Wanting so much to believe
My column – by Adam Harris
November 19, 2006
The past week has been among the most crucial and the most revealing for this country. Guyana should have completed the Providence Stadium by October 31, the date prescribed for the completion of the stadium.
Some 30 months earlier a team from the West Indies Cricket Board descended on Guyana to invite us to prepare facilities to help host the Cricket World Cup. But even before then we knew that we had been awarded the right o host the event. We were among the leading cricketing nations in the world and we had won the first two World Cup tournaments to be staged in the world.
Since those heady days things have changed. West Indies are now among the worst cricketing nation in the world but the image of the team in better days still kept the attention of the world focused on this region. It therefore came as no surprise that the cricketing world granted the West Indies the right to host the World Cup.
Guyana 's Bourda Cricket Club ground was found to be inadequate from the start and talks to merge GCC and GFC proved futile. But with its abundant land space the decision-makers found this ideal piece of land that was once cane fields at Providence . It had everything—space, beauty and above all land that would not flood during the rainy season.
Some diplomatic manoeuvres led to the Indians coming to Guyana 's aid with necessary cash to construct the stadium. We actually began work a little over a year ago and today we have constructed a dream facility to offer a lot for other disciplines in Guyana . But for now the focus is on cricket and this facility must be ready for cricket.
For one thing, the people who were entrusted with the construction took the media into their confidence and at every step of the way they kept the nation posted about what was going on. The initial doubt soon evaporated as the buildings went up. The pitch and playing areas were underdeveloped but by August we all smiled when we saw lush grass all over the ground. To our mind we were ready for the foreign invasion.
Last week a 26-member team from the International Cricket Council (ICC) came to inspect what we had prepared. After all we had spent money we did not have and we were considered to be among the poorest in the region. We may be poor financially but we are certainly a proud people although if one were to look at us one would not think so.
There were some things that did not happen in keeping with promises. For example, when the contractors would have completed the stadium there was to have what the managers called the great flush. The aim was to flush all the lavatories and urinals at the same time to see the drain off.
And although we did not see everything in place we still felt very proud when we dedicated the stadium. One stand is still to be provided with seats and those seats in the stadium still need to be bolted down.
The air conditioning is up and running as is the generator which seems large enough to power a small village, which in reality is what the stadium is. There were some kinks in this area but they were nothing to detract from the grandeur of the stadium. That is why we ended up with so many conflicting media reports at the end of the visit by the team.
Anyone reading the newspapers and listening to the news would have been left with the most confusing notion of the visit and Guyana 's status as a nation selected to host some of the most important matches in the Cricket World Cup 2007.
The visitors checked everything. They asked that a cricket match be organised during their visit so that they could assess the pitch and playing area. They really looked around and at the end of the day they barely caught their flight out of Guyana because they had so much to request of us.
Had this been eight months earlier, without a doubt the region would have lost the right to host the third greatest sporting event in the world. The organisers would have gone to one of those developed countries that already had the facilities and of course they were thinking about going back to South Africa , the hosts of the World Cup four years ago.
However, it is too late for that now. They have to abide with us and our penchant for making everything possible at the last minute. Before they left they were forced to grant us a further extension. Instead of October 31, that deadline is now December 31 but even then there are aspects of Providence Stadium that would not be ready until January 2007, a mere two months before the World Cup.
Even before the visitors left some television stations were proclaiming that they had passed the stadium. Two of the dailies made the same pronouncements. Nothing could be further from the truth. Chief Executive of Cricket World Cup West Indies, Chris Dehring announced that we were akin to a limited overs match with the overs running out and the run rate mounting.
In Guyana the outfield is far from ready. The surface is not solid and it is going to take some rolling to compact the surface and have grass in every nook and cranny. On Thursday when the bowlers ran up they actually kicked up sand from the outfield. This cannot happen on the big day but the people entrusted with correcting this are optimistic that they would have everything under control long before the December 31 deadline.
It is the same with the pitch. It is still too soft but again the staff at Providence is certain that this would not be the case come the deadline date. But there are aspects that are lagging badly.
The security aspect is far from ready. There is no protective fencing around the ground; the parking facilities are not ready and above all, the practice pitches at the ground have not yet been laid.
Of course the ICC team was livid because before the start of every match the players need to knock some balls about. What is more, they expect that the practice pitches would be identical to the one to be used for the matches.
Project Coordinator, Walter Willis says that all these would be in place before play could begin. He has signaled that true Guyanese behaviour is at work here and that we always make everything possible when the appointed time comes. It is the same with the parking area and the security arrangements.
But there are other niggling things. We built that stadium to the ICC specifications and I would hate to believe that we cut corners. There is some concern about the sight screens. The ground on which the sight screens stand (actually the walls of the building to house the press and the visitors) is nearly two and a half feet lower than the centre of the pitch.
The architects might have said that the sight screens should have been ten feet high but when we constructed the ten-foot high sight screens we failed to consider the more than two-foot drop. That meant that they should have constructed a 12-foot tall sight screen.
If there is need for correction the two buildings would be severely affected. Viewers would have to be relocated thereby minimising some of the number of seats those locations could hold.
There are restricted views from some of the stands but these cannot be corrected. All the organisers could do is to allocate those seats to some other people who would be in the ground.
It is not true that the visitors passed the stadium but we wanted so much to believe that we ran with such a headline.