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The managers of Grenada’s stadium are breathing easier. An appeal court has overturned an injunction that allowed a local businessman to remain on land that the cricketing authorities needed to upgrade the stadium’s facilities. This means the ground will be ready when the World Cup comes to the West Indies in March and April, says Gregory Bowen, Grenada’s minister of lands.
There is similar relief at the new Trelawny stadium in northern Jamaica. “I give the pitch and outfield seven out of 10,” said O’Neil Cruickshank, cricket operations manager for the local organising committee after the stadium staged its first match. “There is some more work to be done.”
Across the Caribbean, the sound of earth-moving equipment, hammers and drills indicates the often frantic nature of the World Cup preparations. Sixteen nations will compete, with cricketing minnows such as Canada, Bermuda, the Netherlands, Scotland and Ireland lining up with the likes of Australia, Pakistan, India and South Africa.
“We are in generally good shape,” says Ken Gordon, president of the West Indies Cricket Board. “But organising across nine countries can be a nightmare. Until such time as we have delivered, we will remain alert.”
Don Lockerbie, the International Cricket Council’s venue development manager for the tournament, has been inspecting the 12 stadiums that are being constructed or improved. Some are behind schedule but it appears all will be ready, he suggests.
At the centre of the arrangements stands Chris Dehring, a Jamaican investment banker who is chief executive of Windies World Cup 2007, the company in charge of running the tournament. “All the grounds around the region will be of the highest standard,” Dehring forecasts.
Behind the seeming confidence, there is gnawing uncertainty about aspects of the event. Matches will be played in Antigua, Barbados, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, St Kitts, St Lucia, St Vincent and Trinidad.
Work on some facilities was slowed earlier this year by a shortage of cement. Supplies are still uncertain, particularly in Jamaica, which is importing from neighbouring Cuba.
Although the region is a holiday destination, some venues may not have adequate accommodation for visitors. Organisers predict that 100,000-plus supporters will visit for the matches.
Karan Singh, chief executive of Guyana’s organising committee, says churches may be asked to set up tents as the volume of visitors will outstrip available rooms.
Barbados, the venue for the final on April 28, plans to accommodate visitors on cruise ships moored in Bridgetown harbour. Fans for matches in nearby Grenada could stay there too.
Global tensions present a further challenge for the organisers. Local security services will be helped by Britain and a team from Interpol will be stationed in the region early next year.
What is not in doubt is that the tournament is leading to a dramatic improvement in the facilities for West Indies cricket. The game is the most important bonding element in an often parochial and insular region.
Famous venues like Kensington Oval in Barbados and Sabina Park in Jamaica are being extensively refurbished. Greenfield stadiums are being constructed at Providence in Guyana, Trelawny and Antigua. Well-known venues, such as Bourda in Guyana and the Recreation Ground in Antigua, have had their last major games.
Other countries have assisted in providing or raising funds. The Indian government helped finance the construction of Guyana’s Providence stadium and
Chinese financing is helping both with the Sir Vivian Richards stadium in Antigua and Jamaica’s Trelawny.
A successful staging of the World Cup has implications that go beyond the game. Governments in the region have made much of the global publicity that the tournament will generate and how this could benefit tourism, a pillar of most economies.
The size of the administrative arrangements, however, has not distracted locals from thinking about the home team’s prospects. Fifteen years ago, most would have expected the West Indies to win. But today expectations of a home triumph are not high.
Some have found hope in the recent West Indies 4-1 defeat of the touring Indians in the one-day series. Supporters be seeking more optimism from the tri-nation tournament in Malaysia this month when the Caribbean players will confront Australia and India.
A West Indian win in Barbados on April 28 might well energise the game in the region more fundamentally than the $100m profit that organisers have forecast.
Regardless of the outcome, the West Indies will be winners, says Percy Sonn, president of the International Cricket Council, the sport’s ruling body.
He believes the Caribbean will gain from the World Cup through a rebirth of cricket in the region, similar to South Africa’s experience after the 2003 competition. “That is why we want to support the West Indies with everything that we have,” he says. “I think the people are showing the enthusiasm that is required to pull off this job.”