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BARBADOS - Cricket Brings Benefits

Sunday 04, April-2004

BARBADOS is putting on an impressive show for citizens, residents, visitors and television viewers abroad.

Despite certain logistical difficulties, mostly relating to parking and preparations for World Cup 2007, the organisers have acquitted themselves well in making arrangements for the current Test match at Kensington Oval.

Notwithstanding that the regional squad has had its problems during the 2004 Cable & Wireless series, there are a number of bright spots on which to reflect.

Kensington is getting more than a facelift. Fundamental upgrade of facilities and parking arrangements to reduce traffic congestion were long awaited. So too is expansion that requires relocation of some of the neighbouring properties. This must be completed very shortly.

The hospitality sector, encouraged by the Barbados Cricket Association and the Barbados Tourism Authority, is reaping rewards from an influx of Britons whose support for their cricketers is no less enthusiastic than that of West Indians for regional players.

Add to these the many other tourists, including Caribbean nationals and North Americans, and one gets a picture of a truly international contest drawing thousands to the reputed “Mecca” of West Indies cricket.

There is a sense of order all round with small caterers, vendors and operators of private transport doing good business.

Intense rivalry generated by a ly liberalised telecommunications market brings its own fringe benefits to patrons. All kinds of goodies are on offer, from free T-shirts to extra mobile telephone options, and chances to win cruises and a trip to the Athens Olympics.

Road markings and signage have improved almost overnight. The issue of traffic congestion is substantially settled, largely because spectators are being bussed to and from the Oval where capacity is growing exponentially with the increased patronage, but particularly in anticipation of Cricket Work Cup 2007.

With security high on everyone’s agenda, the Royal Barbados Police Force (RBPF) has responded in fine style, conducting precautionary sweeps of the Oval and environs, facilitating traffic flows and generally minimising difficulties for businesses, motorists and pedestrians.

Internationally, security is such a concern that England’s cricketers have not yet agreed to an International Cricket Council schedule that they tour problem-plagued Zimbabwe later this year. Zimbabweans of British stock have been dispossessed of property under a violent land redistribution programme and Zimbabwe withdrew from the 54-member Commonwealth after its 18-month suspension was extended last December.


Caribbean Cricket

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Dwayne Smith pommels another delivery six during his explosive 94 which came off just 63 balls at the 3Ws Oval against Jamaica yesterday. (Picture by Gordon Brooks.)

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By contrast, even though Barbados and England continue to enjoy their traditionally excellent diplomatic relations, Kensington is under 24-hour police surveillance.

The RBPF explained: “We are getting 2007 ready and the good thing about this is that we are going to international standards. It will not be what the Barbadian public expects, but what you will find if you went to Los Angeles, if you went to Seoul or anywhere there’s an international event.”

With the stands packed and millions watching on television across the globe, the chance is also taken for entertainment by the RBPF and Defence Force bands, along with other cultural displays.

Barbados is clearly rising to the challenge of staging the one major international sports event in a sport in which it has excelled for more than half a century. It shows what can be accomplished with the requisite will and effort by all stakeholders.

Foreign media commentators, repeat visitors and first-time guests speak admiringly of what is being accomplished for the current Test, and particularly how the improvements might enhance this island’s prospects for hosting some matches in Cricket World Cup 2007.

Those compliments are welcome but there should be no complacency. Barbados must continue building on its progress.


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