World Cup Fiddling and Fumbling
Wed, Oct 15, '03
I stood in Pele's footsteps, shook hands with Carlos Alberto and posed for photos with the Samba girls.
Yet, more than anything else, I can't help but think that my recent trip to Rio de Janiero, Brazil, opened my eyes as to how under-prepared we in the West Indies are for the 2007 World Cup.
Rio will host the Pan Am Games during that same period. And it was against this background that I accompanied Brian Lewis of the Olympic Committee, Michelle Rahman of Tidco, Charles Branch of the Sports Ministry and the delightful team of Mr and Mrs Alex Chapman, to the famous football country for five days.
The Brazilians invited us to see just how ready they were to stage these Games... and they are!
We didn't have much time to visit the famous Copacabana beach although we did pass there and briefly saw why the Brazilians are so good at volleyball and beach football.
While we in the Caribbean fiddle and fumble on the dates and venues for the World Cup cricket tournament, Brazil has already determined that the Games will be held from July 13-29, 2007.
Some 42 countries will be represented and the host expects 8,000 athletes to be facilitated. In addition, Rio estimates that the Brazilian economy will heat up by some US $1 billion.
Brazil was told in 2002 that it had won the bid to host the Games and according to president of the Brazil Olympic Committee (COB), Carlos Nuzman, "Since we were officially chosen, we have been working diligently to prepare a high quality competition for athletes, audience and sponsors."
Brazilians already know that the opening and closing ceremony will be held in the Mario Filho Stadium or the famous Maracana Stadium.
They have identified venues for every single sporting discipline and can give you dates for all.
Major hotel construction to cater for the 80,000 foreigners is moving at a furious pace.
Perhaps more importantly is the fact that one cannot travel through Rio, without getting a sense that something big is about to happen. Almost at every one mile marker, there is a massive billboard which tells you "Welcome to Rio ? home of the 2007 Pan Am Games."
As I travelled through Rio and listened to the different presentations, I could not help but think that something is seriously wrong with what is happening here in the West Indies in 2007.
I imagine that Chris Dehring and company must know exactly what they are doing. I hope they do, because the Samba experience opened my eyes to a number of things ? one of which is that we are way behind in our preparations.
Perhaps I am getting a little anxious as I await information about the actual planning of this great event. What is to happen with movement of people throughout the region, beds for visitors, currency, venues, internal transport to and from games?
Dehring, as far as I know, has had no prior experience in staging an event of this magnitude and I am wondering why it is he has not tapped into the resources of a number of Caribbean people who have been involved in a big way in such events.
People such as Dehring's countryman, Mike Fennel, an Olympic 'bigwig' and Barbadian Steve Stoute, another top dog in the OG. There's also Trinidad & Tobago's Alex Chapman and Jack Warner whose experience in the football World Cup must be invaluable.
Dehring and company are likely to say that I am pessimistic and creating panic.
Maybe they are right. But I'd sure as hell like the Caribbean to leave the rest of the world with a legacy of good organisation skills and a well run event in 2007.
And believe me, the Samba experience tells me that as of now, that is highly unlikely!