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As the countdown to the staging of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2007 continues, with a year and a day to go, officials are assuring the public that plans are on track for the West Indies to host the best event in the history of the sport.
Speaking at a press conference on March 10 at the Hilton Kingston Hotel, ICC Cricket World Cup 2007 Managing Director, Chris Dehring said that a tremendous amount of work has been completed in terms of preparation. However, he said there was still much to be done.
“I can tell you categorically that we are where we want to be. We are certainly where we expected to be at this point. Yes there are challenges, but they are not challenges that we did not anticipate,” he noted.
He also said that there was a world out there that looked on the Caribbean with absolute cynicism in terms of its ability to host such an event. As such, he urged the Caribbean media to become vanguards of the truth.
“You have to take on the responsibility of investigating and printing the truth,” he said, while dismissing reports that Guyana was lagging in its stadium construction schedule.
“Guyana has in fact been a star in our venue construction programme. They are ahead of schedule,” Mr. Dehring added.
Supporting Mr. Dehring’s view was ICC Cricket World Cup 2007 Venue Development Director, Don Lockerbie, who said it was customary for the media around the world to judge stadia a year before the staging of an event.
“We saw it with Athens, where they were given all sorts of bad media press about how they would not finish on time. We have seen it with FIFA World Cup in Germany for 2006, where there has been some attacks on their venues.,” Mr. Lockerbie said.
“I am just letting everyone know that without a shadow of doubt, Cricket World Cup venues will be ready and they will be the finest assembly of cricket stadia ever put together for a World Cup,” he added.
However, Mr. Lockerbie said it was necessary to ensure that the territories continued to display the type of progress that was needed to keep plans on track, because for him, the ICC Cricket World Cup 2007 would really commence in 69 days, when India arrives in Jamaica for its two-month tour of the West Indies.
“Let us not think for one second that the media of the world, players of the world, cricket administrators around the world and tourists are not coming with their cameras.with their media pads out and their videos. They will be remarking, commenting and most importantly, judging our preparations,” he pointed out.
Expounding further on preparations, Mr. Lockerbie said that contractually, the Local Organising Committees (LOC) of the host territories must have the legacy portion of their stadia completed by October 31, 2006.
The legacy portion of the stadium, he explained, is the section of the stadium that will be around the next 50 years or more. “It is the permanent construction.that is why we need that done by the end of October, because the definitive tour by the ICC will take place in late November 2006,” he pointed out.
He further informed that ICC officials would take several days to inspect each venue in November. The inspections, he said, would ensure that most of the venues to be used for the event would be “ready to go”, and also meet engineering and architectural standards, among other things.
Mr. Lockerbie clarified that although all stadia are supposed to be completed by October 31, construction would not necessarily be finished.
“Believe me when I tell you that venue development takes place all the way up to the last few days before the World Cup begins, so we won’t be late. We won’t be behind,” he stressed.
Meanwhile, the Eighth ICC Cricket World Cup 2007 Venue Summit, which followed on the heels of an ICC Venue tour of seven stadia in five host territories last week, left many ICC officials both impressed and encouraged.
Some 140 delegates from the region as well as the continents of Asia, Europe, Africa and North America were in attendance.
“I think it is very key that the ICC went away and was very pleased with what they saw,” the Venue Development Director said.
Also updating the press was Jamaica LOC Chief Executive Officer, Robert Bryan, who argued that there was a need to energize the region to get involved in the preparations for the ICC Cricket World Cup.
“If we are to be successful, it is going to require that the entire population of the region becomes involved and see it as a responsibility and pretty much recognize and approach the preparation with the pride that is required,” Mr. Bryan noted.
He also encouraged the regional and local cricket boards and administrations to understand that a critical part of the successful hosting of the event had to do with the performance of the West Indies team.
“We do believe that if we could piece that closer to the other preparations, it would make a huge difference in energizing the region,” Mr. Bryan said.