Cricket glorious cricket!
Yep, next year is the Cricket World Cup, the big battle for one-day supremacy and bragging rights by all of the world's top cricket playing nations. Alas that I should even risk a thought that my favorite West Indies squad had a chance at winning but then again miracles do happen.
Anyway the World Cup, like all sporting world cups it appears, is cycled among the nations that play the sport and 2007 just happens to be the year when its being hosted by the Caribbean. World cup cricket in the islands man, it gets no better than that if you are a cricket fan like I am.
Its great since it may give me a chance to go down and get to watch an actual World Cup match live in one of our famous cricket grounds. That's probably a once in a lifetime thing as far as I'm concerned cause most of the big cricket playing nations are on the other side of the world and I man would need some serious big money to even get across to India or Pakistan or New Zealand plus look for tickets and accommodations and the like so there goes jr's college fund before it even get started.....and that just doesn't work for me.
Not that going to the world cup in my own backyard will be cheap but hey I figure at least a man can beg a lodging from one of me bredren.
Still as the Caribbean nations furiously prepare for the World Cup, attempting to beat deadlines by upgrading infrastructure and retrofitting stadiums to bring them into the new millennium some worrying thoughts cross my mind.
Nope not the thoughts that the Windies team is still terrible and its going to be a shame to watch us handed our butts at home by all and sundry. No I'm thinking about the costs of this World Cup endeavor and apparently so are some others.
Can the Caribbean afford to host this World Cup? I mean yea the politicians and the spokesmen for the parties involved in the planning of the event have all put very positive spins on the return in investment from the expenditure outlayed but anyone who has followed big sporting events knows that, even in the case of developed countries, large sporting events have left host countries with big budget overruns, large monetary deficits and white elephant structures (think Olympic stadium in Montreal).
Can poor third world countries like Barbados, Jamaica, Guyana, St Vincent and the like afford to invest money into this event and then take losses?
Ok yea don't get me wrong, its quite the privilege to host the event, and one should put one's best foot forward no question about that, but at the end of the day you cant really eat the prestige and good will you garner can you? Aren't there better ways to spend those funds earmarked for the world cup preparation? Wouldn't the millions of dollars going into World Cup preparation be better spent on other projects in the Caribbean countries? Education, Health care, projects to help the poor, those sorts of things. Its a question I often ponder.
The islands are operating under the umbrella of this logic that the press coverage garnered from the World Cup is priceless and will bring new short and long term benefits to our nations. Apparently amongst other things the publicity that is gained from this event will result in a fresh tsunami like deluge of new tourists to the Caribbean after the actual event is finished. I find that logic to be somewhat faulty.
Why? Ok let me explain my counter logic. I don't dispute that with the World Cup of cricket you will get millions of viewers all over the world tuning in to the event. That's a fact. The specifics are though that although you will have large numbers, the viewership will be highly localized in a few countries: Britain, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, the entire subcontinent, North America, the Caribbean and a sprinkling of viewers possibly from a few European, African and Middle Eastern countries. Its a far cry from the really widespread coverage of the soccer world cup where basically people on every continent, in almost every country in the world, actually watch the games because well its indisputable that soccer is a more widely played game than cricket around the world and there is more interest in the outcomes of those games.
Ok so we have high viewership for the cricket World Cup but localized. Now not only is the viewership localized but if you plot those countries on the globe you realize that most of them are in the Eastern hemisphere while the Caribbean is in the west. In fact only North America, England and the Caribbean of the countries I've listed are in the west.
Not only in terms of countries listed is the viewership skewered to the east but also in terms of population as I'm sure most of the viewership will originate in the subcontinent which has millions if not billions of people, most die hard cricket fanatics.
What does that tell me? Well it tells me that we are targeting for tourism purposes countries in the west, in North America and England, where our islands are already well known, already have decent press coverage and we probably wont see a really significant upswing in visitors from those places. Then we are also targeting countries in the east where we are likely to get diddly squat in terms of tourist output.
You really think that we will see significant tourist numbers coming from the east? You think people going to leave New Delhi, Lahore or Colombo to fly thousands of miles to the Caribbean to hold a sea bath? You think the same thing will happen with people from New Zealand, Australia and South Africa?
Realistically first off its too expensive to fly that far to the Caribbean for the average vacationer and secondly those guys have sea and sun options closer to home. Why waste a whole day or more flying to Jamaica from New Zealand to spend a week and end up with jetlag that will take 5 days to disappear when you could more easily go to Borneo, Indonesia, Malaysia or someplace close by with the same sea and sun we promoting?
Come on now!
So yea millions might watch but I believe very few will jump on a plane and say they are coming down to Barbados because they just really must savor some flying fish and cou-cou or see the Animal Flower Cave. Its not going to happen.
Maybe during the world cup we'll get a significant increase in numbers from those countries as fans come over to support their teams but after the games are over and the hoopla has died down I don't believe there will be significant impact on tourist numbers.
So then the question is does the expenditure justify the return in investment from a few extra tourists during the world cup event? And while we're at it is tourism such a great industry to invest in with the state of the airline industry and the security issues facing those flying these days?
We are borrowing money to invest in this world cup putting local Caribbean citizens in more debt for some pie in the sky expected long term gains mainly based on increased tourism. I mean even countries that only received warm up games spending big money renovation and refurbishing stadiums that will only get used twice or three times a year.
How much debt are Caribbean countries putting ourselves in for these games and who will be the persons to actually feel that debt burden?
Ok yea the high rollers will say you got to bet big to win big but at the same time I think the odds don't justify the big bet. In fact I feel that I would put money on the West Indies team to win the World Cup before I bet that the Caribbean islands will make a profit or see significant returns from this world cup and the money they spending.