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World Cup 2007 – Our collective responsibility

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The English-speaking Caribbean has undertaken perhaps its largest international sporting/business venture to date in hosting the International Cricket Conference’s WORLD CUP 2007.

Between the months of March and April next year, fifteen national teams, complete with their own army of fans, media personnel, officials and just plain visitors will be hosted in the sunny Caribbean. While the cricket itself will take centre stage (not as fanatically followed as if the West Indies team were in its element), it will be the region’s ability to organize, administer, host and entertain the expected thousands of guests which will be on show for the world to see.{{more}}

With this in mind the effort has, quite wisely, not been left up to the West Indies Cricket Board alone. CARICOM and national governments are very much involved and local Committees have been established in the host countries, including those like SVG which will stage warm-up matches, to oversee the preparations for the grand event. “Grand” is not just a metaphor here, for tens of millions of dollars, hundreds of millions, rather, are being invested by both the public and private sectors in the World Cup hosting.

Governments, in particular, have committed themselves to spending large sums on infrastructural development, especially on upgrading cricket facilities and related amenities.

Cashing in

Hoteliers and others in the hospitality business are also making investments, hoping to cash in on the expected in-flow of tourists and cricket dollars. Will all this pay off? It all depends on whether we DO IT RIGHT and place ourselves in a position to benefit from our investment. The price of failure is too frightening to even contemplate.

Naturally, the people of the region, as tax-payers are concerned about the whole venture, given the huge sums involved. But I must say this is not a time for our usual negativism, running down this and that, criticizing Tom, Dick, Harry and even Yvonne without trying to put forward constructive proposals. As I read the region’s press and listen to various call-in programmes in different islands, I get the sense of some people almost wishing us to failure, perhaps to get a sadistic sense of “We told you so”. Some who can contribute with ideas, administrative ability and even investment seem to be waiting on an invitation. It is the Caribbean’s future at stake; if the governments and the cricket Boards are making mistakes, we CANNOT SIT BACK and allow things to fall into disrepair. We must become pro-active and not just doomsday arm-chair analysts.

A challenge

The concerns are rightly justified for the undertaking has massive implications. Take air travel for instance. The Caribbean islands are separated by water and save for the French-speaking islands there is no regular inter-island ferry. So air transport it must be. That, in normal times, even in the off-season is a major headache. There is hardly a day when things go smoothly. Taking teams and visitors to and from the various venues can turn out to be not just a tremendous challenge but may be a major nightmare. The supposed “competition” between the carriers is yet to deliver quality service to us, everyday commuters, so it must be a huge headache come 2007.

Rate hike

Already there has been some row in the media about hotel costs and charges of price-gouging by hoteliers. If that is so, they would not be alone. Hotels in the developed world do it too, just check for Germany in June. Worse, there are hotels in London which took advantage of the underground bombings last year to charge exorbitant overnight rates. That is not to say that we should encourage the practice because the idea is to look beyond 2007.

What of feeding the cricket-lovers? Who is offering incentives to farmers and farmers organizations? What plans are there to assist our food producers (farmers, fisherfolk, agro-processors) to ensure that they are in a position to DELIVER and to BENEFIT?

We cannot spend public money only for one small group of people to benefit or to encourage a massive importation of food and further undermine our food security. This is a critical part of the venture but not much is being said, including by farmers and farmers organizations. Here too, they must become pro-active, organize themselves to get piece of the pie too.

Finally there is the matter of not just ensuring that the cricket facilities are up to standard and completed on time, but also there is a plan for post-World Cup use. Many are the countries which have invested huge sums, staged international events but failed to draw up programmes for use afterwards, ending up with expensive “white elephants” which I would deal with later.

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