Cricket World Cup 2007 “bust”
Freddie Kissoon column
March 29, 2007
Guyana is undoubtedly one of the more important territories in the CARICOM family. When compared to its West Indian neighbours, Guyana is an enormous piece of land that is bigger than all the CARICOM countries put together; a fact the BCC's Martin Gough didn't know, and which many cricket journalists and test cricket players around the world do not know.
Batting star Ramnaresh Sarwan comes from Wakenaam, an island in one of the three major rivers of Guyana that has more land space than many West Indian islands.
Guyana symbolises the future of a United States of the Caribbean. It is in Guyana that the CARICOM Secretariat is located. Guyana, then, could not have refused to host CWC 2007. It would have been a decision that would have alienated the Caribbean people. Guyana would have been viewed with disdain and scorn by the leadership of the Caribbean.
It was an impossible decision to make, but it had to be done. Guyana had to facilitate CWC. But within the economic womb of this country that baby had to become stillborn.
Go into the Kaieteur News archives and you will find three columns of mine that argued against the building of the National Stadium at Providence using points in economics.
I wouldn't repeat all the angles used in those past columns. Suffice it to say our economy could not have allowed us to endure the financial hardships of hosting CWC 2007. There is no shame on my part as a Guyanese in this essay here, written at a time when thousands (much, much lower than the 30,000 we predicted) of visitors are in Guyana and may read this commentary, in saying that this is one of the world's poorest states.
My job as an analyst is to provide my readers with intellectual objectivity and not emotional jingoism.
Guyana's economic strength may expand greatly in the years to come, transforming us into another Trinidad; but for now, all statistical studies will show that we are in the category of some poor states in places like Sub-Saharan Africa. In fact, if we were not very impoverished we could not have qualified for HIPIC debt relief. That was only given to a category of territories that were the poorest in the world.
Against this kind of financial fragility, the financial undertaking for CWC 2007 had to be oppressive.
Then came more financial torture. The Local Organising Committee (LOC) failed to complete all the requirements it signed on to in partnership with the ICC. This brought about the displacement of the LOC by the ICC, which mandated a French firm to complete the tasks the LOC failed to engage in to the end. So, more American dollars have to be dished out to pay the Frenchmen.
Then came the denouement – Pakistan and India have failed to qualify for the second round, so the influx from South Asia that was expected because of the matches between these two teams scheduled for the Providence Stadium has fizzed out into a nightmare.
You can't blame the LOC or the Guyana Government for this. It could have happened to the West Indies team. And who knows, the West Indies may go out with ignominy on their faces given the way they catapulted themselves into humiliation yesterday to an Australian side.
What has happened, then, is that Guyana has empty hotels. I know one brand new hotel that has not received a single booking. I made two types of enquires for this article yesterday afternoon. One is to investigate if there is accommodation available for the CWC visitors. What I found was shocking. There are hundreds of empty rooms in spanking new structures still waiting for patronage.
Secondly, officials at every hotel I have spoken to, built for the specific purpose of attracting CWC visitors, told me that loans were taken from the banks. Let me repeat that my research revealed that there isn't a hotel that has gone up recently that has not relied on borrowed money.
The consequences of CWC “bust” in Guyana for the commercial banks will be more catastrophic than when the rice industry collapsed causing the commercial banks to lose maybe hundreds of millions.
It is not only in Guyana the financial monster has shown its CWC head, but in Antigua, too. Do you want more evidence that CWC 2007 has “bust” than what happened at the match in Antigua on Tuesday? It was frightening. I suspect more of that scare will be on today.
The West Indies took on Australia in what must be a rehearsal of the final. Please believe me when I say that I am not being emotionally patriotic but objective, in that I believe that given the present talent of the West Indian team, we will be in the final.
There were huge gaps in the stands, all the stands. This was the West Indies taking on the mighty Australia. And guess where? In cricket-mad Antigua where a new stadium was built to honour the third best cricketer the West Indies has produced after Sobers and Lara --Viv Richards.
I dare any West Indian commentator and sports writer to tell me that they were not expecting an effervescent crowd busting with enthusiasm. When I saw that attendance, something told me that CWC 2007 in the Caribbean was in trouble.
So what went wrong? The commentator Mark Nichols gave his analysis during one over. He said the security arrangements took away the West Indian character that accompanies cricket in the West Indies. That is a plausible argument. One suspects that Australia and the UK insisted on extraordinary security logistics given their role in the war in Iraq. Some poor West Indian countries that had nothing to do with that war had to go to impossible levels to provide security for CWC 2007. There is indeed a daunting manoeuvre that visitors have to make to get into the games.
It is a repressive regime that dampens your spirit. The security arrangements are killing the cricket, yet a person or group penetrated the concrete jungle and killed Bob Woolmer.
The financial argument is more persuasive. Caribbean working class folks are not going to pay that kind of money to see CWC games. Glenn Lall, the publisher of this newspaper, Adam Harris, the editor, and all the staff at Kaieteur News like to call me a cheap man. So KN staff knows that I am not going to CWC 2007 because I don't have that kind of cash.
Today, the West Indies play New Zealand. I hope I am wrong, but it looks like the Antiguans are going to stay home again. The mistake the CARICOM heads made is that they should have insisted that the rich ICC states help to finance CWC in the Caribbean. Cricket, lovely cricket in the West Indies has become an expensive affair.