Ruining it for the locals

What a World Cup is has been so far, a tournament memorable for all the wrong reasons. The gestapo-like restrictions have been mentioned before, but such incredulity needs regular airing.

Vaneisa Baksh writes:

On my bookshelf there are three or four unused tickets that will serve as my pretty World Cup souvenirs. As much as I love the game and want to support it, I couldn’t subject myself to absurd restrictions that tried to masquerade under a security umbrella.

West Indians sensed early that this World Cup cared little for their company, their culture, and ignored the realities of life in this part of the world. So they are staying away from all the grand stadia their governments have spent so much of their money to prepare. It just hasn’t been enough about West Indians; can you blame them?

It is, very nearly, a complete disaster. The only hope for the locals is if, by some strange twist of fate, West Indies make the final. They won’t, though, and the public will stay at home. That feeling of revitalisation – a spring hope that the region would be injected with cricket fever – a few weeks ago has dribbled away. This is largely due to, but not solely restricted to, the ICC’s blind greed, their suffocating marketing tactics and a complete lack of interest, or knowledge, of Caribbean culture. They have distanced the very people that should be instrumental (in every sense of the word) to the tournament’s success. That is quite some feat.

Mike King says:

Locals, alienated by the prices and culture of this global event with its Alcatraz-like policies, have stayed away from even those games featuring the home side.

Long queues for tickets and expensive food have resulted in short tempers, paltry crowds and complaints at every turn.

Prior to the tournament, organisers were boasting of sell-out grounds and marketed the event as the best World Cup ever. To say they got it wrong is an under-statement of gigantic proportions.

The ICC cannot be blamed for the cricket on show – and perhaps that, more than the event’s planning, has affected the region’s apathy. West Indies have, as we all suspected but wished wouldn’t happen, been caught short and exposed. But this tournament has been in planning for over five years. Why, then, has it been such a shambles and who will be called to account?

Sunblock? Rumblock

Last week I wrote about the Trinidadians’ clever use of a zip-lock bag to sneak in contraband (contrabanned, more like), which the authorities in the Caribbean prohibit. That was clever, but not nearly as ingenious as the use of a bottle of sunblock!

I love the expression on that bloke’s face, behind, raising his glass of rum. Well done, Trinis! (thanks Ryan)

Ambush marketing, West Indian style

On similar lines to my previous post comes a cracking post from Adam Mountford, a BBC producer. He had earlier reported that many Bajans were put off visiting the grounds due to the stringent rules imposed on them, so he tracked down Chris de Caires, chairman of the Barbados organising committee.

De Caires told me he wanted to make sure that people knew they were visiting the Kensington Oval in Barbados, not the Kennington Oval in London. But he also told me one story which proves that the need to keep corporate interests happy is still on his mind.

The ICC will go to great lengths to stop “ambush marketing” – the practice whereby companies would hijack the World Cup to promote products which are rivals to the official sponsors of the event. Before the warm-up matches at the 3Ws Oval he had to go round all the toilets putting tape over any brand names on the bathroom furniture. Unfortunately one of the cleaning staff had obviously missed the brief about the dangers of ambush marketing.

She happened to be cleaning one night when she noticed lots of tape in the toilets and decided to remove it all so the toilets were properly cleaned.

Perhaps she has the right idea.

Reminds me of a funny situation in Nairobi last month at the Gymkhana. A guest was invited to hand out the Man-of-the-Match awards at a particular game, but he had to make a short speech beforehand. “What do I say? What does one do at these events?” he asked an ICC representative who told him he needs to mention the sponsors. All of them. And with the lack of funds made available to Kenya, there were two or three. It sounded so forced I couldn’t help chuckle at the banality and falseness of it all.

Trinis deny Gestapo-like rules at World Cup

If there’s one aspect of modern life I cannot stand, it’s the nanny state. I’ve ranted about it before but, on the eve of the World Cup, nanny is back: and she wants more.

This is probably less about a nanny state, more corporate greed. Plastic bottles, tins and alcoholic drinks are all banned at every match venue in the Caribbean (some claim this is for health and safety reasons; others have their doubts). Consequently, the prices inside the grounds are exorbitant as Michelle McDonald discovered.

I scanned the concession stands for meals and prices. I was on the hunt for two fish meals. One stand was selling steamed fish which would have been ideal. Price? J$800 each. Normally, such a meal would cost approximately J$350 maximum, sometimes less. I continued my search, scanning price lists as I went along.

The bottle of water, thrown into a Pepsi cup, was indeed J$150. A Red Stripe Beer was $200. A beer drinker said he would normally have paid J$150 – J$160. I saw a friend with Tropicana Fruit drinks, lamenting the high J$180 price tag. What would have been a normal price, I asked. “J$80!” she exclaimed.

With some creative combining, for my J$1,000, I managed to get a Tofu meal, a small Tofu wrap, a small cup of spilt peas soup and one bottle of water. We would have to share the water.

Quite remarkable, and it’s happening all over the world. I’m sure it isn’t limited just to cricket, either. But the West Indians aren’t going to be all British about it (moan, complain, stiffen the upper lip and “get on with it” [1]). They’re fighting it:

When fans got into the venue and realised that all the food and drink prices, nuts and doubles included, were in US dollars, that was another story.

By yesterday’s match between Pakistan and South Africa, we Trinis found the way to beat the rules. It was no longer rum, beer, water, juice and soft drinks in bottles and cans, but zip-lock bags.

At the end of yesterday’s games, some people were boasting how many bags of beer they drank and others how many bags of rum they had guzzled. A couple of people also hid small plastic bottles of water and less sobering drinks in between their sandwiches and lunch boxes and were able to sneak pass the security checks.

Rock on, Trinis! That zip-lock-bag trick is one to remember.

To what extent these Gestapo-like rules (copyright M Atherton) will affect the traditional Caribbean atmosphere normally associated at grounds in the West Indies, we’ll find out soon. It’s dispiriting though. The region’s addiction with cricket has waned in the past decade and, although this World Cup should aid the sport’s resurgence, the public should just be allowed to have some fun – rum, beer, water, picnics or whatever they wish.

[1] Reminds me of a joke Eddie Izzard once told. Wondering why the British Empire collapsed, he suggested it was the Englishman’s tendency to say “Oh, really?” and “Jolly good!”)

Satellite views of World Cup venues

Reto Meier wrote to tell me of his mapping project. He’s found out the exact location of all the World Cup venues and stuck them into Google earth. Here, for example, is Sabina Park in Kingston, Jamaica. Pretty cool stuff. Check his blog out for more.

The return of Caribbean Cricket

No, sadly I don’t have the answer to the Caribbean’s descent into oblivion, nor any exciting news of its regeneration. This is just a reminder that Ryan Narine’s and blog are both back in the land of the living which, if nothing else, is the best news West Indies cricket has had in months. Check out both and keep reading.

It is, as Tony Cozier said the other day, an “intimately informed” website and required reading for anyone interested in cricket.

With that good news comes another depressing comment, this time from Tony Becca.

“Cricket, once the king of sports in this country, has become a second-rate sport in this country.”

Illegal World Cup merchandise

No, I’m not selling any – merely pointing you to Ryan’s blog who warns how impossible it will be for the Caribbean to police the sale of un-kosher World Cup goods.

Caribbean cricket

I’ve never been to the Caribbean but this is what I imagine the beaches would be like.

Cricket on a beach in the Caribbean

Terrific shot: movement, colour, action.

Beausejour from above

Beausejour cricket ground

A host of photos from drnoble of St Lucia and, pictured above, the Test ground Beausejour which I've written about for Cricinfo's St Lucian microsite.

Bermuda cricket photo – Stanford 20/20

A terrific photo from Flickr user antiguan of a recent Stanford 20/20 between Jamaica and Bermuda