CRAZY FOR CRICKET
ST. LUCIA: 2007 WORLD CUP VENUE
St. Lucia is one of eight venues in the region selected to host the 2007 Cricket World Cup organized locally by the West Indies Cricket Board. The event, scheduled to start in April 2007, will feature 16 world cup nations playing some 51 matches during the Championships.
St. Lucia has been awarded the Blue Package with four teams, including England, playing six matches on the island. St. Lucia will also host one of the two semi-finals. All events will take place at the ultra-modern Beausejour Cricket Ground. St. Lucia is a new Caribbean venue and securing a semi-final match is an indication of the ICC, International Cricket Council's rating of the island's facility at Beausejour.
Selection of the venues followed a rigid bidding process. The eight host countries chosen are Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia and Trinidad and Tobago.
In St. Lucia, however, preparation work for the event has only just begun. Before the World Cup, the Government of St. Lucia must double the seating capacity of the Beausejour Cricket Ground – described by West Indies captain Brian Lara as "the best ground in the Caribbean."
Winning the Blue Package is regarded as a boost for the island's tourism industry. The United Kingdom is the second largest market for visitor arrivals to St. Lucia.
Philip Pierre, St. Lucia's Tourism Minister is urging the tourism sector to prepare for the benefits that such a prestigious event will generate. Most of the island's tourism infrastructure is in the north, near to the Beausejour Cricket Ground. The presence of an 18-hole golf course, swimming, fitness and tennis facilities are all good selling points for the Beausejour World Cup venue. Government is even considering offering incentives to investors who wish to increase room capacity in time for the World Cup.
The local organizing committee is working under the theme World Cup 2007 – A Nation Prepares. Former Director of Tourism Allen Chastanet, who sat on the West Indies Cricket Board World Cup Planning Committee, says that the choice of St. Lucia as a venue is an extraordinary opportunity for the island.
"The package that St. Lucia has won virtually makes the island the hub of World Cup 2007. In the first round of matches, which include England, we are going to have matches being played almost every day over a three-week period. The next phase, which is the Super 8 will be played in Antigua, Barbados and Grenada – all of which are close enough to St. Lucia to allow cricket fans to make St. Lucia their base for the 51-day tournament and travel to matches in the other islands as they please," said Chastanet.
Live transmission of matches from the Beausejour Cricket Ground to millions of viewers across the globe is priceless exposure for St. Lucia as an international cricket venue and tourist destination.
"From an economic perspective, it is an awesome package that St. Lucia has won," said Chastanet.