World Cup year
January 1, 2007
An exhilarating experience and much glory is what the eternal optimist hopes the dawning of a new year will bring to Guyana in 2007. And the agenda is indeed a packed one with the hosting of several prestige events the most prominent of which is the world cup cricket matches from March 28 to April 9. This will be preceded by the meeting of the Rio Group Heads, in itself a signal event which will draw the country closer to its continental neighbours and hopefully cement its role as an influential player in the group. Weighty matters are on its agenda including the reform of the UN system and global governance issues. The Commonwealth Finance Ministers meeting is also to be held here sometime this year.
These gatherings will demand much of the country in terms of silky hosting but none more than the word cup. If there is a single event which will define 2007 it will be the heady days between the end of March and early April when the cricket world cup will be run off.
If it is well administered, the super eight section of the tournament here will provide the perfect platform to showcase Guyana to thousands of potential tourists and should also bring a tidy return to the country. It would also banish or at least dispel the notion that Guyana is presently incapable of handling such a demanding event without major upheavals.
There was never a time when President Kennedy's admonition "…ask not what your country can do for you - ask what you can do for your country..." was more relevant to Guyana than now.
The Local Organising Committee (LOC) for the Cricket World Cup can only do what is within its mandate. The rest of the task is left up to the ordinary citizen. From the one who helps off-load luggage from the first aircraft that arrives with the TOMS (teams, officials, media, sponsors - for those of you still not in synch with the world cup lingo) to the bleary-eyed immigration officer who takes the first passport and either responds to or ignores the `good morning' greeting from the visitor.
And this extends all down the chain from the red cap porter who carries the luggage, to the minibus or taxi which bargains to transport the passenger, to the hotel or bed and breakfast that provides lodging, to the waiter in the establishment who serves drinks to the attendant in the store that sells souvenirs.
The list is endless but easily intrudes on the habits and activities of thousands of us and we must rise to the challenge. Though a corps of volunteers will be deployed by the LOC, that group is but a fraction of the number whose patience, assistance and friendliness will be required for the CWC visitors to feel welcome and at home.
As was the case in the Great Flood of 2005, a national effort is needed with each person working shoulder to shoulder with the other regardless of whatever grievance or perceived grievance they harbour about each other.
Best case scenario is that the world cup comes off swimmingly well and it provides a magnet for tourism that will keep the many hotel rooms filled, inject much need hard currency and draw other investors. The country and each of its citizens will benefit from this.
There will be challenges. The implementation of VAT from today will prompt numerous queries about the way transactions are handled and tourists in particular tend to be fastidious about these questions and expect convincing answers. It would mean that many more of the service people in the tourism and commercial sectors will have to be steeped in VAT.
The state of the city, utility services and the threat of flooding will never be far away. The acrimony that characterizes ties between the city council and its administration and the council and the government leads one to believe that moves are afoot to replace the council with an interim body under the pretext that chances cannot be taken with a major event like this. Whether that happens or not there is a likelihood that tourists can end up seeing more garbage, clogged and overrunning drains, stray animals and backed up sewerage systems than they should. Potable water supply in terms of duration and water pressure is also likely to be problematic. It is not evident at this point that there is one captain mobilizing Team Georgetown to get cracking.
Hopefully, the country will be spared the deluge of the last two years. Were there to be any significant flooding this could lead to a rebooting of expectations and planning for the world cup.
The other major wildcard is crime, in particular, the established ability of gangs of 10 to 20 men to create havoc that paralyses major arteries and spreads cowering fear in the populace. It should not escape the public's attention that last year was a nightmarish one. It included the murders of Waddell, Sawh, the disappearance of the 30 AK-47s and two massacres - both on the East Bank of Demerara. We expect our security services to be ready but they have disappointed in the past.
Guyana deserves a chance in the limelight. The tournament also provides a great opportunity for a national and regional coming together which could carve a brighter path ahead for both Guyana and the Caribbean.