On Target
January 6, 2006

Are we ready for World Cup 2007?

The Caribbean is readying itself to host cricket’s showpiece, the World Cup in 2007.

Undoubtedly, it is the single biggest event ever to be undertaken by the region. St. Vincent and the Grenadines has been listed to stage warm up matches as the lead up to the group stage of competition.

Many Vincentians may say they know that. Many are aware that Australia, England, Bermuda and Zimbabwe will be involved in the matches, March 5, 6, 7 and 9. Many are aware that the Arnos Vale Playing Field is under extensive renovations for this purpose. In addition, the recent pronouncements of the building of several cabanas in the Buccament Bay area in time for March 2007, may tickle one’s memory. {{more}}But what does an event of such magnitude entail? What are the implications if we make a faux pas? To these questions, many may just shrug their shoulders in sheer oblivion or indifference.

This though is a direct result of a lack of sensitisation of the Vincentian public to our role in the entire event. Since the announcement last July of this country being afforded these matches, this sensitisation has been almost non existent. The local World Cup committee has failed or has lacked the tenacity to filter pertinent information to the ordinary man.

One may recognise that a media blitz may not be necessary at this juncture, but a systematic and continual flow of information is.

The local organising committee needs to be reminded that we are the ones who must create the first positive impression for the rest of the Caribbean to follow and possibly emulate. So getting it right or close to is paramount. They must also be nudged to recall that the affair is a national one and should be elevated to such a status.

It is the general public which will interface with the many visitors who are expected to descend on the country. And, with England being involved, anticipation is rife that they will have the customary large following. Australia and Bermuda cannot be left out, and they too may have their band of supporters. Are we accustomed to having persons in large numbers from these places simultaneously on our soil? To compound this, the occasion will be seen as a festive one for the visitors.

These visitors are going to patronise the bars, restaurants, night clubs, the coconut vendors, the taxis, among others. When are these persons going to be brought directly into the scheme of things? Two months before the event?

We must also be reminded that while we are slated for the warm-up matches in the first instance, this country is on standby for matches in the group stages, hence the need to get ready on all fronts.

Every Vincentian has a role to play in the whole scheme of things, as this country will be on show.

The proactive approach by the current administration by linking Sports with Tourism shows that it is sensitized to what the world cup calls for. A similar approach of vision is needed on the ground by those entrusted to do the work.

We can ill afford to let this opportunity to properly market ourselves before the World Cup initially as a nation, then collectively as one Caribbean pass us by. The spin offs can be tremendous. We must show first of all that Vincentians are imbued with the capacity to be efficient and the organisational skills to stage a premier world event.

Cricket, like many other sports has taken on a fierce commercial face, where the maximisation of the advertising dollar is of great importance and guarded with prudence.

And, such will be the case even at the warm up matches, as the threat of ‘ambush marketing’ will be scrutinised with vigilance.

No wearing of apparel from rival sponsors of the World Cup will be allowed in close proximity to the Arnos Vale Playing Field. Then there are the security measures that have to adhered to, like the ‘no bottle’ policy at the ground and the frisking of patrons on entry in light of the increasing threat of terrorism. This may be news to many, but it is information that has been kept under the bushel by those who should disseminate it.

A dry run of these measures was employed last year when the West Indies and Pakistan played here in the Digicel One Day Series May 15, but little awareness was done prior to the day, causing some inconvenience to spectators.

The Arnos Vale Playing Field will be the main venue for the warm up matches, while Stubbs and the Sion Hill Playing Fields are to be used as practice arenas. The latter facilities are nestled in residential areas and of course it will not be business as usual in these normally laid back communities. Their privacy will be disrupted as the protection of the players will take precedence. But do the residents of these communities know this?

The readiness on the local front must be intensified at once. Whilst we have shown in the past that we can come up to mark with spontaneity in crises, this occasion is too big for a hit and miss approach.