Harare: Britain, Australia and Canada were accused by a Zimbabwe government minister here Wednesday of lobbying six countries to boycott the Zimbabwe leg of the 2003 cricket World Cup next February.
"We are aware that Britain, Australia and Canada are attempting to persuade other countries not to play here in Zimbabwe," said Aeneas Chigwedere, Education, Sports and Culture Minister. Chigwedere spoke at a function to launch the World Cup in Harare. But the executive director of the World Cup, Ali Bacher, pointed out that all the countries due to play in the World Cup are under contract. Malcolm Speed, chief executive of the International Cricket Council (ICC), would not be drawn to comment on Chigwedere's outburst. He commented that the only criteria for participation was the safety of players, officials and supporters. Security would be evaluated by the ICC and the United Cricket Board of South Africa from time to time. South Africa is the main World Cup venue. "We have to keep politics and sport apart. Sport does have a habit, though, of healing political differences," Speed said. Chigwedere was standing in for President Robert Mugabe, who had been scheduled to launch the eighth World Cup since its inception, at a colourful ceremony that included African tribal dancers and singers. But Mugabe was delayed in Singapore where he is visiting enroute from Malaysia. His speech came immediately after the Zimbabwe fast bowler Henry Olonga sang his own composition "Zimbabwe, land of peace and harmony." The Zimbabwe Cricket Union (ZCU) has spent 150 million Zimbabwe Dollars ($ 250,000) on ground improvement for the World Cup, in the last six months, including three media centres. It stands to lose a further $ 80,000 if Zimbabwe does not stage the six matches here against England, Australia, Namibia, Holland, Pakistan and India in Group 'A'. The ZCU has already lost $ 300,000 this year after Australia pulled out of a scheduled Test and One-day International tour here in April. The 2003 Cricket World Cup is being claimed as the biggest sporting event in Africa this decade. It will involve 14 nations playing 54 matches over 46 days. The winner will receive $ 2 million from a prize fund of $ 5 million. A television audience of more than one billion is expected to view the matches.
Thatscricket Special: World Cup 2003