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Wednesday, March 28, 2007

CWC 2007: Will Guyana Be A Hero Or A Zero Today?

Grounds staff at Guyana National Stadium in Providence make final preparations to the pitch for tomorrow’s game. At left, members of the South Africa team get in a bit of practice. The Grounds definitely seem ready.

Reported By John Mair

HBN Guyana

Hardbeatnews, GEORGETOWN, Guyana, Weds. Mar. 28, 2007: Chairman of the Guyana Local Organizing Committee, Karran Singh, was upbeat yesterday despite the dozens of damaging reports that blasted around the world, slamming the lack of completion of the Guyana National Stadium at Providence.

He summed it up accurately in an interview at his Georgetown headquarters yesterday. “I will be a hero or zero in twenty four hours,” said Singh, as workers bustled around as on an over-active ant’s nest, trying hard to work out the last minute details to deliver the first of six Super Eight matches today.

But Singh is calm. “There will be confusion but then confusion is the Guyanese middle name,” he said yesterday. At Providence, much of the activity seemed productive, undoubtedly due in part to the intervention of ICC CWC 2007 and the newly hired French company, GL Events.

Officials insist the stadium will be ready for play, spectators and for televising today after work continued through the nights. Indeed it looked good on the surface yesterday as the sun finally shone through after some 36 hours of rain.

The physical structure is certainly in place as is the electronic portion, courtesy of container loads of expensive equipment and the expertise of the traveling circus of technicians attached to the host broadcaster. But it is not all plain sailing to the finish line. There are still many rough edges where things could fall apart. The electricity may fail as it does too often in Guyana and the water in central Georgetown was on reduced pressure yesterday.

But the teams are in Guyana. England practiced yesterday at the Atlantic facing, but dry Everest Cricket Club Ground while Ireland was at the historical Bourda Ground.

South Africa and Sri Lanka sampled, for the first time, the cricketing delights of the National Stadium, but abandoned net practice seemingly in frustration.

Site manager Walter Willis, under much pressure in recent days, admitted to HBN he “could not wait for the first ball to be bowled.” It will culminate four years of work in supervising the construction and finishing of the National Stadium at a cost of at least US$25M.

Still those cars parked around the Providence Stadium just need one heavy rain shower to return to the quagmire status of Monday. Willis insists he was not responsible for that mess -

one surface of sand loam as cover. “The government told me that was what they wanted and that is exactly what I have given them,” was his retort to critics.

Likewise, there are local worries about whether the seats will all be taken. There are few signs of the thousands of tourists promised for CWC in Guyana.

The teams which have made it through to the Super Eight here seem to have sloughed off their following on the way to Guyana. For example, there are few visible signs of the thousands of English supporters - ‘The Barmy Army’ - who were with them in St. Lucia.

There are a desultory few wandering around Georgetown but they are noticeable by their presence. Local businessman Jad Rahaman, who runs a well know chain of burger bars and will open a concession stand at the stadium today, expressed his disappointment. “I thought there would be a big pick up in the last week,” he said. “There has not.”

Locals in this poor country have been put off too by the seat prices. Today, only the turnstiles will tell how many true tourists have struggled to El Dorado from the other West Indian island venues.

Meanwhile, in the light of the Bob Woolmer murder in Jamaica, Guyana’s Police Commissioner Henry Greene has been telling the local media that “security is as tight here as anywhere in the world.”

But that is simply not the experience of this reporter who was able to amble round the Providence stadium with a shoulder bag completely unchallenged at noon yesterday for an hour. Likewise, earlier I entered the main hotel for the teams - The Le Meridien Pegasus in Georgetown - with no challenge whatsoever and was able to walk freely around the ground floor without any questions being asked.

Still even with these caveats, it seems Guyana may pull if off, in typical Guyanese fashion when the first ball is bowled at 9:30 this morning. –

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