Cricket World Cup 2007 (CWC2007) and Vincentian politics
It has been almost four years since St Vincent and the Grenadines hosted what this columnist insists were ‘goat cook’ matches, otherwise known as warm up matches for the Cricket World Cup 2007. To this day it is virtually impossible to glean precisely how this country has benefited. It is the contention of this columnist that the exercise was a colossal waste of scarce resources and that the beneficiaries are delightfully few. CWC2007 in St Vincent and the Grenadines was more of a political exercise than a sports event.
When St Vincent and the Grenadines agreed to submit a bid one wondered why we even bothered. We were well aware that we were not considered among the big league and the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) and the International Cricket Council (ICC) were intent on selecting venues where they could garner large gate receipts. While many boasted of the windfall to be derived from the sale of television rights, most of which belong to the ICC anyway, the reality was that both organisations desired large gate receipts.
This country’s bid for one or more of the competition matches was fraught with difficulties from the very start. Of course it was always held that we did not know what was necessary and so we sought expertise elsewhere. The outcome was the expected failure.
Of course in our case failure did not mean the end. We had to get something; anything.
St Vincent and the Grenadines actually accepted the ‘goat cook’ matches that were rejected by Bermuda, a country with a much higher per capita income. It was virtually a no contest bid. We got what nobody else wanted.
In the Column dated 26 October 2007 it was put this way:
The decision of the local authorities here to take up the Cricket World Cup 2007 package of warm up matches that was rejected by Bermuda largely because of the outcome of its cost-benefit analysis remains one of the most flawed in the history, not just of sport, but of all St Vincent and the Grenadines. The only grouping to whom the decision made any sense, even in the aftermath of CWC2007 is that of those immediately involved in the organising of it. To them the decision was great and the opportunity to be part of the CWC2007 was more important than anything they would probably experience during their lifetime.
The sentiments expressed back then are still most valid.
Why then did we bid? The answer to this lies in pure, unadulterated politics.
This country has no sports marketing strategy. This meant that we would have been unable to creatively impact the global sports marketplace with any degree of confidence.
The Local Organising Committee (LOC)
The Local Organising Committee was at best as farcical as it was political. It was probably difficult to identify any non-politically partisan member of the LOC. They all seemed to have had access to the leadership of the country largely because of their real or perceived political prejudices and/or allegiances.
On reflection the membership of the LOC seemed less concerned with expertise and experience as much as it was with political patronage; what Carl Stone referred to as patron-clientilism.
Not surprisingly the LOC seemed festooned with ideas that were consistent with those of the ruling regime.
Perhaps the most glaring example of the political bias of the LOC was the decision in respect of the colours of the seats that had to be purchased for the refurbished Arnos Vale Playing Field. The original intent it seems was to have the seating across the Caribbean reflect the national colours of the respective countries. Here in St Vincent and the Grenadines it appears that the LOC could not contain itself and the red was used instead of the yellow in the national flag. Some seem to think that this was the colour selected because it is the colour of the ruling Unity Labour Party.
Today, almost four years later the anomaly in respect of the colours remains in existence standing as a classical example of the petty level to which we have degenerated in St Vincent and the Grenadines. The anxiety to appear to please the ruling regime in may well have been the primary consideration, well ahead of the broader national heritage concerns.
In an article dated 28 December 2007 it was necessary to state:
The Sunset legislation literally allowed the sun to set on our cultural methods of enjoying ourselves at sporting events, particularly cricket.
This remains one of the most damning features of the work of the LOC. The membership were so much out of their depth that they had no basis on which to argue against the imposition of this most decrepit piece of legislation for some ‘goat cook’ matches.
In the same article it was stated:
We have the longest serving Local Organising Committee (LOC) for the CWC2007 in the entire region, its life having been extended through to December 31 of this year; and this for an event that ended in March.
Actually, the LOC went on for much longer. No one seemed embarrassed at collecting monies as salaries for doing nothing. All around the region LOCs had long since closed their doors and accounted for their performance or lack thereof. Here in St Vincent and the Grenadines the members of the LOC outlived the rest and may well have enjoyed greater benefits as a result.
There are those who follow the developments taking place in sport in St Vincent and the Grenadines very closely. Many were amazed to learn of the exorbitant salaries allocated for the members of the LOC.
In the near four years that have passed the LOC has been unable to offer us any sort of explanation for the millions expended on the CWC2007.
Vincentians looked on in awe as millions were literally poured down the drain with significant amounts of this going as take home pay and perks.
In an article dated 6 June 2008 we stated:
The Prime Minister and Minister of Finance spent much of his time attempting to explain to the nation the amount of money spent on the cricket facilities at Stubbs, Arnos Vale # 1 and # 2 and Sion Hill. He seemed to think that it was an investment in the future of the game in the country.
Evidence has shown that for all of the millions spent on Arnos Vale # 1 there are major problems that seem well beyond the capacity of the current custodians to adequately manage.
There is certainly no promotional activity pitched at the regional and international markets for use of the facilities that we spent millions to produce. Vincentians have also not been privy to any marketing plans for the facilities.
The only legacy from the CWC2007 then must be the swimming pool at the Sion Hill Playing Field, which is now, finally, being appropriately corrected.
It did not seem to bother any of the members of the LOC that they had so poorly performed that the unsightly and unhealthy swimming pool at Sion Hill stood as their only true legacy.
The playing fields took an inordinately long time to be completed. Indeed it remains questionable whether the appropriate soil tests were ever done, given the poor state even at the time of the ‘goat cook’ matches.
One then wonders precisely what the LOC members were being paid for.
For years Stubbs was a beach away from the water.
Luckily for St Vincent and the Grenadines Lauren Baptiste returned home. His capacity to work with little to achieve a lot has allowed the playing fields with which he has worked to be considered amongst the best we have ever had. Arnos Vale #1 under his care has received the highest commendation. Baptiste is now one of the most sought-after field custodians.
Even the equipment procured for the maintenance of the refurbished facilities deserves closer scrutiny. Some may not have been ideally suited to our conditions and little consideration appeared to have been given to the procurement of spares.
From the scorching of the grasses each time they are used it is clear that no one really evaluated the kind of covers that we eventually decided to purchase. They are exceedingly heavy, difficult to use and negatively impact the very facilities they are intended to protect.
The retaining wall at the back of the new double-decker stand collapsed while under construction by one company – Franco Construction. No one made any fuss when this occurred and Marine and General had to be called in to do over the wall. In any other country this would have been front page news but not here. The LOC did not seem to consider it necessary to tell the public the truth about this matter and what it cost taxpayers of this country.
It is only the politicians of the ruling regime who can today stand up and dare to tell Vincentians what a lovely job they have done at Arnos Vale, hoping that people do not know the truth.
General elections seem to be the time when members of the ruling party of any country attempt to showcase their achievements while in office, hoping to convince the electorate that they deserve another term.
The CWC2007 experience was far too political in all aspects from the very beginning through to the end. It remains a significant blemish on the performance of the current government from whom our sportspeople deserve an apology. We have failed if that is what we seem to think is sport development. We have missed the boat.
Sportspeople cannot allow themselves to be continually duped. They cannot afford to allow politicians to use them as playthings for their own selfish interests.