Sunday, April 01, 2007

They Chased Us Away

By Marcus M. Mottley, Ph.D.

What has happened in Antigua and the rest of the Caribbean during the current Cricket World Cup showcase has a huge significance for us.

The most critical issue of course is the draconian, colonialistic restrictions that CWC organizers placed on the islands hosting the matches.

The very nature of the restrictions placed on us by CWC organizers reminds me of what I have read of our colonial history. CWC came to our shores… used our facilities… had us spend millions of dollars of infrastructural development and then restricted us from putting our stamp on the games. They restricted us from marketing our local products. They restricted our local companies from marketing their services. They restricted our people from behaving and acting like Antiguans, Barbudans, Guyanese, Trinidadians, Barbadians, Jamaicans, Kittians, Grenadians, St. Lucians… They restricted us from being who we are.

And we allowed them. We kowtowed to them. We said, “Yes Masah!” “Anything you say, Masah!” “You get anything you want, Masah.” "You want anything else, Sah?"

Veteran cricket writer Tony Becca says it is the International Cricket Council (ICC) that is responsible for the poor involvement of the local people in the showpiece event. “They (the ICC and organizers) want tourists from other parts of the World to come but ignored the local populations” Becca said. He also said, “I have covered many World Cups and what I saw (in the past) was that the majority of the crowd has been local.” He continued, “The ICC thought the World Cup as a golden goose and chased the local people out assuming that large numbers would come from abroad and they would not need local support.”

And so, they chased us away.

One hundred US dollars for a ticket! That is $270 Eastern Caribbean Dollars. In a region where many people don’t even earn that in a week… the CWC organizers were really catering to the rich, the elite business class and to the so-called tourists.

So, they chased us away.

And the seats which were available to the local populations were limited. Very limited. At least… they were limited until the last moment when CWC realized that their thousands and thousands of tourists just weren’t coming.

And they lied about the numbers.

At first we heard that 50,000 ‘tourists’ were coming to Antigua. We were going to have to get cruise ships to accommodate all those tourists since we did not have enough rooms and beds here. Entrepreneurs were encouraged to invest in bed and breakfast accommodations and build motels. Ordinary citizens were encouraged to spruce up empty rooms in their houses to accommodate the thousands of CWC ‘tourists’ who would need a room for a few nights! Then the figures were downgraded… to 30,000… to 20,000… to 15,000… to... well... who knows what the final figures will be?

Now we weren't talking about Barbadians, Jamaicans, Guyanese and Trinidadians coming here. And they certainly weren't talking about Antiguans and Barbudans returning home for the matches… nope. ICC/CWC didn’t care about them… and didn’t factor them in.

And of course, they didn’t care about us either.

So they didn't factor us in. Instead, they chased us away.

Why did they do that? They certainly didn’t expect the Caribbean masses to buy those US$100 tickets! They expected the seats to be filled with Australians, New Zealanders, British… and with a scattering of Indian, Pakistani and Sri Lankan supporters.


Or were they making sure that the West Indies Team would not have the massive numbers of supporters who would form a powerful 12th man?

Now there are other ways they made sure that even those of us who were foolish enough to want to buy those costly tickets could not get them. I stood in a line of 60 persons at their one purchasing site in St. Johns for one hour. In that one hour, they processed five persons!!! I left my son in the line, went home, got online, purchased the tickets, went back to the purchasing office, waved my receipt in the face of the security guard, walked inside and picked up my tickets. My son was still in line – facing a four to five hour wait!

They chased us away and I should have stayed away. But… I wanted the exposure for my sons… That’s a limp argument… because…

They chased us away.

Of course, I guess ICC/CWC had a colonial view of us. They probably didn’t expect locals to be 'sophisticated' enough to purchase their tickets online. Almost all the people who were in the expedited line with online receipts were Aussies or Brits!

Yep, they intended to chase us away. It worked… because we have stayed away.

Why? Because we clearly understand… this is not our ‘ting’. This is their thing. So they can have it…

There are other issues of course. Like the wimpish, spineless negotiators who represented us. Like the spinning that is being done by our local officials about how we will benefit in the future as a result of spending over $300 million. Like the financial impact on tourism during this period that stems from those stupid visa requirements… Like the fact that it took the advent of CWC to push our government to fix sidewalks and some roads...

But those issues are for another day.

Today, they chased us away.

So, tomorrow and the next day… and the next day... we will stay away.