ICC Cricket World Cup 2007 and SVG – Sport Tourism?
St Vincent and the Grenadines joined the rest of the Caribbean in agreeing the hosting of the International Cricket Council’s Cricket World Cup in 2007 (CWC2007).
The West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) was awarded the right to hoist the CWC2007 because the ICC was completing its round of having every one of the major cricketing nations get an opportunity to host the prestigious and otherwise lucrative event.
The WICB then approached the governments of the Caribbean to support the undertaking and that seems to have resonated well with the regional Heads of Government, many of whom had absolutely no idea what they were getting into.
The regional Heads of Government were sold on the idea that hosting the CWC20007 in the Caribbean was an amazing sport tourism opportunity even though not one of them had as yet established a national sport tourism policy in their own country. They did not really understand the concept and what it means in practical terms, to say nothing of the requirements of getting a grip on how the CWC2007 was intended to be a sport tourism product.
It never occurred to any of the Heads of Government of the region to ask the leadership of the CWC how it was going to become a sport tourism product that would bring benefits to the region.
It was also unclear just what would have been the requirements of the region to realise the potential of the CWC2007 as a beneficial sport tourism product for the Caribbean as hosts.
Armed without any genuine experience in sport tourism the leadership of the region’s Cricket fraternity apparently marched headlong across the Caribbean and convinced the different governments to come on board CWC2007.
One government after another in this Caribbean of ours was led by the nose through the near-torturous process of getting the Sunset Legislation passed without once taking into consideration the implications for the culture of the peoples of the region and how it would derail the innovations of thorough enjoyment that Chikie’s Hi Fi and Gravy had brought to the game in Antigua and Barbuda several years ago, a rich legacy that has impacted the game everywhere since.
In sport cities and countries often have to bid to win the rights to host a mega event. At the time that we got the CWC2007 the Cricketing nations did not have to bid for the event. The ICC was allowing the major Cricketing nations to each have the opportunity to host the event before introducing a bidding process like most international sports federations (IF) do. This must have been a critical factor in the decidedly poor job undertaken in the Caribbean.
Had the WICB to participate in a bidding process for the CWC2007 the member countries and the regional body would have individually and collectively benefitted from an experience that would have yielded significantly better results than what emerged in reality.
Economic, social and cultural considerations
The CWC2007 has come and gone. We have not been privy to any analysis of the event, whether at the level of the WICB, CARICOM or at the level of St Vincent and the Grenadines.
In our case it is claimed that over $50m was allocated for hosting some warm-up matches.
We did not get any of the matches involve din the actual competitive component of the CWC2007 yet we were told that merely to host warm-up matches involving some of the teams participating in the competition we were committed to an expenditure in excess of $50m.
What were the objectives of the expenditure of more than $50m?
What did the Local Organising Committee set out to achieve with the huge expenditure?
Were there any hard and soft legacy objectives involved in the expenditure?
Hard legacy refers to infrastructure (training and competition venues, hotels, etc.), city and community reorientation and economic activity while soft legacy refers to image of the country, confidence of the people in being able to host activities, experience, nationalism, voluntarism and inspiration. In seeking to host major sporting events cities and countries are expected to clearly identify their objectives and detail the anticipated hard and soft legacies that are to emerge as outcomes following the completion of the event.
The foregoing are critical questions that still need to be asked since no one has been forthcoming in respect of detailed analysis of our involvement in the CWC2007 undertaking.
It is as though we simply engaged in an activity for the fun of it.
There is absolutely no reason for a nation such as ours with it open and highly vulnerable economy, to engage in such a massive financial undertaking without clear, unambiguous objectives established.
Perhaps those involved thought that because it was Cricket there was no need to establish the parameters by way of clear objectives and, following the conclusion of the event, objectively analyse the outcomes against the stated objectives.
If one were to ask the average Vincentians of the known objectives of hosting the warm-up matches of the CWC2007, he/she would be hard-pressed six years later to identify any beyond the fact that some international teams were brought here to prepare for the major competitive aspect of the event.
The Local Organising Committee (LOC) for CWC2007 identified Arnos Vale #1, Arnos Vale #2, Stubs Playing Field and Sion Hill Playing Field, as facilities to be used for the warm up matches to be played in St Vincent and the Grenadines. A tremendous amount of resources was placed on transforming the playing areas on each of the foregoing and on the construction – and in some cases, refurbishing – of attendant facilities.
Appropriate expertise was accessed to aid in the development of the facilities.
By the time the CWC2007 had come around the expertise applied to Arnos Vale #2 had failed miserably. For one reason or another, yet to be publicly stated, the anticipated development of this never took place.
By the time the warm up matches drew closer the same Arnos Vale #2 was transformed into one of the homes of venue overlay. Essentially this meant that it became home to a variety of tents with numerous poles buried into the ground. For all intents and purposes the expenditure on the development of Arnos Vale #2 went awry – a colossal waste.
The hard legacy of Arnos Vale #2 is that it returned to its former state, a reality that exists today.
Then there was the Stubbs Playing Field. To the people of the Stubbs community the arena became the Vincentian Dust Bowl. Many thought the expertise was unfamiliar with the nature of the area and the work undertaken on the field was woefully inadequate given the associated expenditures.
Here again, the legacy is that little has changed at Stubbs as a direct result of the CWC2007. The newly constructed pavilion is all that there is to speak about, really.
The case of the Sion Hill Playing Field is no different from Arnos Vale #2 and the Stubbs Playing Field. The decision was taken to re-orient the Football Field from North to South to East to West and, like the others, extensively underlain with sand and grassed.
The legacy at Sion Hill is that the community had re-oriented the Football Field back to its original state and the local grass has been nurtured back to provide coverage of the arena.
As with Stubbs, the newly constructed pavilion is all that there is to speak about, really.
We have no evidence of this country venturing into any sort of agreement to sustain the intended new quality playing fields on which so much money was expended and to use them to engage teams from different parts of the world in different sports to utilise St Vincent and the Grenadines as a training venue during their winter months at home.
There was no hotel infrastructure put in place for the warm up matches and no changes to the communications infrastructure of a lasting nature as a result of our hosting the warm-up matches for the CWC2007.
Large and small businesses in St Vincent and the Grenadines, outside of those who were awarded construction, security and transportation contracts, did not have anything to shout about.
There has been no evidence of extensive long-term employment for Vincentians as a result of our hosting of the warm-up matches for the CWC2007.
Vincentians were very upset at the impact of the Sunset Legislation on their capacity to enjoy themselves at the warm up matches.
Indeed, if Vincentians had anything to do with the Sunset Legislation they would readily have dumped it on the heads of those who conceptualised it as well as those who sat and passed it without taking the sporting masses into consideration.
Vincentians were not particularly proud of our hosting of the warm-up matches. Many were far too incensed about the treatment meted out to them and some of the nation’s children to consider themselves proud of anything related to the CWC2007.
While we are aware that scores of Vincentians were trained and allowed to operate as volunteers for the CWC2007 in St Vincent and the Grenadines there is no lasting legacy in this regard. There is no evidence that a volunteer corps has been developed to serve sport tourism interests in the future.
The hosting of the warm-up matches did not significantly enhance the image of St Vincent and the Grenadines.
There is no evidence of any major difference in the images of the country shown during the warm-up matches than is normally done when the country plays host to international Cricket competitions, or of any difference in their impact.
There is no evidence that Vincentians continue to speak of our hosting of the warm-up matches of the CWC2007 as being of some historical significance that people want to pass on to their children and grandchildren. It was something that happened just as any other activity, it seems.
There is no evidence of any place where the archives of our involvement in the CWC2007, hosting warm-up matches, are displayed so that schools can have their students visit to receive a guided tour and feel a sense of pride as Vincentians for what we were able to achieve.
The intention in the Column is not about belittling anyone. Instead it is to be realistic about the way we do things.
It is easy to use sport tourism as a catch phrase for political campaigns and to befuddle the minds of those who blindly love sport and are eager to hear of us making progress in this regard.
This Column takes a hard look at the fact that we boast of having expended in excess of $50m on hosting warm-up matches for the CWC2007 and no one seems even remotely interested, six years on, in objectively analysis whether or not we met any objectives, known or unknown before the commencement of the undertaking.
For a small, poor, open and vulnerable economy like that of St Vincent and the Grenadines, talk is not enough.
We must engage in research and critically analyse our objectives and outcomes whenever we engage in expenditures of any sort.
If we wish to engage in sport tourism, we must begin to train and access appropriately qualified personnel to get us off on the right foot.