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Caribbean on track with World Cup preparations

Published: Tuesday, December 12, 2006, 11:43 [IST]
 
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ST JAMES, Barbados, Dec 12: With just over three months to go before the start of the 2007 cricket World Cup, much of Barbados is scarred by building cranes, road detours and construction sites.

Completion of the Kensington Oval, venue for the April 28 final, has been put back a month but organisers are confident cricket's showpiece event will be a resounding success.

''Things are going very well and we are in the final straight of a process that started many, many months ago,'' Stephen Alleyne, chief executive officer of the Barbados World Cup local organising committee, told Reuters yesterday.

''The West Indies has developed a reputation for being one of the most enjoyable and sought-after tours and I believe the World Cup will fit into exactly the same bracket.

''Of course, you always get some doubts when something has never been staged in a region before but I have every confidence the tournament will run smoothly.

''The Barbados government has recognised a significant opportunity with this World Cup and has worked hard to make ready various other components of the country -- such as the international airport, the seaport and the roads.

''Some of this is ongoing but most of it is expected to be completed in a few weeks, making service standards ascend to the level that will accord with the excellence expected.'' Two areas of concern for Alleyne had been the development of stadiums on the Caribbean islands and the tightening of security but he said these issues were now under control.

''At the start of the process, we knew we had to commit significant resources to the development of the stadiums,'' he added.

''The progress in this area has been facilitated by substantial investment and additional resources brought in largely through the Chinese and the Indians.

EXCELLENT STADIUMS

''We have created a stable of excellent stadiums and most of them are now ready, although one or two might take until the end of December.'' The Kensington Oval, which previously accommodated 13,000 spectators, will hold a capacity of 27,000 during the World Cup.

Although most of the redevelopment work at the ground is close to fruition, final construction of the stadium roof and a public address system will spill over into January. ''We will be working throughout the Christmas period to ensure that all is complete ahead of the formal opening on February 17,'' Alleyne said.

''Substantial development was required to bring the Kensington Oval fully into the modern era while retaining where possible the aspects of the ground that have made it so popular.

''The majority of the old pavilions named after some of the finest cricketers that the world has seen are still there, honouring the likes of Garfield Sobers, Frank Worrell, Everton Weekes and Clyde Walcott.

''We have also managed to retain the intimacy of the ground while complying with the ICC standard,'' Alleyne added.

''The condition of the pitch and field were the primary concerns of the ICC but, following recent tests there, the ICC has expressed its satisfaction.'' Security also received high-priority treatment by Alleyne's committee.

''In the current climate, it was very important that patrons could expect to feel safe within the care-free and happy atmosphere of a Caribbean World Cup,'' he said.

SECURITY HELP

 ''We have expended tremendous amounts of investment on this and have received a lot of help from security forces in the other countries participating in the World Cup.'' Alleyne said initial fears by the public over escalating hotel prices during the tournament were no longer a concern.

''Here in Barbados, the hoteliers have committed to charging rates which relate to the highest rates they would have charged in the previous 12 months,'' he said.

''I'm not aware of any trebling or even doubling of rates, although there is bound to be a variation of rates within a season.

''You have to remember that the 2007 World Cup is taking place in a resort part of the world and prices can perhaps be higher than elsewhere.'' Up to 18 cruise ships will be docked at the port in Barbados to help make up for the lack of conventional hotel rooms on the island, and Grenada is planning a similar arrangement.

''The World Cup takes place in the peak tourist season here, so this is a reasonable proposition,'' Alleyne said. ''We are expecting that this will be a welcome supplement.'' The World Cup, being staged in the Caribbean for the first time, will take place from March 13-April 28.

A record 16 teams are participating with matches in Jamaica, St Kitts, St Lucia, Trinidad, Guyana, Grenada and Barbados.

Reuters

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