No blame shifting -- President says on CWC By Mark Ramotar
Guyana Chronicle
April 12, 2007

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WHILE acknowledging it was no secret that Guyana had “tensions” with the Cricket World Cup and the International Cricket Council (ICC) in that some decisions were unfair, such as the pricing of the tickets, President Bharrat Jagdeo yesterday said he will not complain or “shift the blame” like some other countries are doing now.

“I am not going to run down the CWC or ICC. I think it was good for Guyana and we have benefited and will continue to benefit from our hosting of World Cup cricket”, he told a press conference at the Office of the President in Georgetown.

“We are not going to, in this country pass the blame on to anyone else. We made a conscious decision to put in a bid and we think the hosting of these games was good for Guyana and good from several vantage points.”

He said: “I see some countries, when questioned about the expenses and whether those expenses were justified, rather than explaining to their people about why this sovereign decision was made - that they put in a bid to host World Cup cricket and they take the responsibility for that decision - they sought (instead) to shift the burden or the blame elsewhere and started blaming all the regional bodies (LOCs) or the ICC.”

He said all of Guyana should be proud of the national effort at successfully hosting the Super Eight matches of the showpiece CWC tournament – an event that was “very good for Guyana” given its numerous tangible and intangible spin-off benefits.

Alluding to the proven belief that “cricket is a big unifying thing”, he said this was evident here during the matches when Guyanese forgot about politics, race or religious differences and were united and worked together.

This, he said, ensured that the Guyana leg of the tournament, the third largest sporting event in the world, was such a tremendous success in spite of all the obstacles and hurdles.

“I was very pleased because for them (the Guyanese people) it did not matter – politics did not matter at that time, neither did race or religion. I saw this in their faces; Guyana was what mattered and us hosting the games and I think we need to build on this because it can bring our people closer together, which is a major national task.”

Mr. Jagdeo also indicated that based on the preliminary numbers so far “it seems as though for the six matches that we have hosted in Guyana, we have had something like 50,000 paying members”.

This, he said, will ensure that a “substantial sum of money” would flow to the country and to the government.

“…this was truly a national event and I wish that we treat it as such because sometimes we have a tendency to be harsh on ourselves than we are on other people and I hope that we don’t fall into that trap,” the President urged.

Noting that CWC provided Guyana with a great opportunity to showcase itself to the rest of world, the President said the subsequent “worldwide publicity and image change of this country” cannot be quantified in monetary terms.

He estimated that to advertise in the international media, a 30-second ad could cost as much as G$20M.

“(And) we were on show for several days and if you quantify that in money terms, if we had spent that money to get that publicity across the world, we would probably be spending more than what we used to build the stadium (at Providence),” he said.

Mr. Jagdeo also referred to those who had said that Guyana would never be ready or able to host the CWC matches, the Local Organising Committee (LOC) would have been replaced, or that the matches would have been moved to Jamaica because the stadium wasn’t ready and the weather was going to be terrible, among other misgivings.

“I see all this griping every day by some individuals but they would gripe even if the rain falls and they will still gripe if the rain doesn’t fall, so I am not worried about them. In fact some people, when they couldn’t find anything to criticise, they were saying ‘don’t worry with them, rain will fall and wash out everything’.”

“But I am not going to complain because I think it was a very good effort for our country. I think it was a good national effort and I am very pleased with the hard work put in by everyone. I think we showcased our country well and I am sure that based on what I have heard, a lot of people had a good time and they are going to come back”.

The President was full of praise for Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports Dr. Frank Anthony and his staff, members of the LOC, the volunteers, the security forces, some sections of the media which he commended as being “terribly patriotic”, the medical personnel, members of the government and the opposition, and “especially the Guyanese people who turned out in their large numbers to make this event a success”.

He said one of the first spin-off benefits of hosting the games here was the construction of a spanking new, state-of-the-art stadium – a much needed facility that will crucially ensure, among other things, that Guyana can now put in good bids to host test cricket in the future.

Guyana had, in recent years, been unsuccessful in its bid to host test cricket since the facilities at the previously old and faithful Bourda ground in Georgetown were deemed unsuitable and unacceptable to international standards.

“We needed a replacement stadium for Bourda…we could not have continued hosting cricket at Bourda because of the absence of a number of the facilities there,” the President said, pointing out the congestion problem at Bourda where there are individual seats, very few narrow entrances and exits.

He said there were issues as well about the ground size and most importantly the drainage system at Bourda.

“So if we wanted as a country to continue hosting test cricket and to put in good bids for test cricket in the future and get test cricket to come here, we had to either substantially upgrade Bourda or build a new stadium.”

“And from our assessment, the cost of upgrading Bourda and the difficulties of finding the space here and creating the ambience and the other facilities that are necessary to go with it….we felt it was better that we built an independent and new facility,” the President said.

He said from that perspective alone, it was a necessary expenditure to secure test cricket way into the future, for the next 50 to 100 years, and the Guyana National Stadium allows Guyana to now do that.

He also lauded the drainage system at the stadium which was featured around the world on television during the matches here.

“No longer are we going to hear other countries saying that we can’t have test cricket go to Guyana because the drainage is not good or if rain falls here we would not be able to play cricket, because we demonstrated and it happened that after huge downpours, minutes later the field was hard and the game was being played again.”

“So I think from that perspective alone, it was an expenditure well spent,” the President said.

President Jagdeo also said no one should ever underestimate the impact of hosting World Cup Cricket on Guyana’s organisational skills – from the level of the Police and security forces in terms of training in countering terrorism, and training to handling and organising large events and crowd control at these venues.

“That has added a new dimension to our Police Force and to the training here and from the taxi drivers and the thousands of volunteers and the people who help, I think we have benefited tremendously from that perspective as well.”

President Jagdeo said another benefit of Guyana’s hosting of CWC is the growth in infrastructure, and noted that the government provided a lot of incentives for people to invest which was a “triggering factor” for the level of infrastructural investment within recent months.

“Now that we have more infrastructure, we can go out and bid for more events,” he said.

He recalled the initial struggles faced by Guyana in getting enough hotel rooms to accommodate visiting heads and their delegations during the recent Rio Summit.

The President does not foresee similar struggles when Guyana hosts the Commonwealth Finance Ministers meeting in September when some 55 countries are expected to be represented here, since the country now boasts a good stock of hotel rooms.

Noting that many persons from the Caribbean region, including Guyana, have complained about the high ticket prices, President Jagdeo said Guyana had argued for lower prices although there were countries in the Caribbean plugging for higher prices for the tickets.

He noted that the region had to settle for a single price for all the venues – since the ticket prices in Guyana, for instance, could not be different from the ticket prices in Jamaica or Antigua or any of the host venues.

“So it was standard pricing throughout the region but what I was so pleased about is that in spite of our per capita GDP and many people running us down about how we are so poor and all of that…we had good showing at almost all the matches played in Guyana.”

“I was pleased also that our kids managed to get a chance to see some of the cricket as well – from across Guyana.”

“Yes, we wish that the ticket prices for the event could have been maybe cheaper – but when you host these international games, especially when it is done in several areas and it is organised by a common committee, the pricing policy often at the individual country level, you don’t have control over pricing.”

On the issue of how the Guyana National Stadium will be sustained in the future, President Jagdeo said lights will be installed there for night cricket and other night activities.

He said the government is also looking at the possibility of using some of the proceeds from the CWC ticket sales to host at least one of the matches of the Stanford 20-20 cricket tournament.

He also said the stadium will be used for concerts, church use, football, and for a whole range of activities, but assured that the cricket pitches on the ground will be preserved.

Asked how the Guyana National Stadium will be managed after CWC, President Jagdeo said a definitive decision is still to be made and efforts are under way to examine what is the best way forward.

“We have already started some discussions but we have to look at the best option; we haven’t decided as yet…my preference though is to have some independent group run it - where you have your own balance sheet and everything else and that it does not receive any subsidies, and it can pay its way and we get a flow from the stadium back into the treasury and not the other way around.”

“So from all of these angles, I think CWC was good for Guyana,” the President told reporters.