Out and About in Antigua
Commentary: 2005 June 25th
Antiguans are feeling their freedom. After many years of a single family regime ruling the nation, they revel in the freshness of a new government voted in last year in March 2004. Everyone has something to say about where Antigua is going and how they are getting there, and what they are going to do when they arrive.
And of course, speaking cricket, each Caribbean island hosting the World Cricket Series of 2007 has arrived, and Antigua is one of them. Other islands not included in the series can only bathe in the reflected glory. This event has every Caribbean country just blazing with pride and excitement.
Kids and adults alike play cricket throughout the ex-British island nations on every street, village, beach and bare patch of ground, flat or sloping. The names of great cricketing icons such as Vivian Richards, Dennis Walcott and Clive Lloyd are much more familiar within the average Caribbean home than Venus Williams or David Beckham.
In the days when Cable and Wireless Ltd was a monopoly in the English speaking West Indies, the company made a shrewd decision to sponsor cricket with a big budget and strong campaign, branding telecommunications and cricket inextricably to generations of kids. Today, the long awaited competition has at last arrived and as we start to move away from Cable and Wireless, the successful job they did with uniting telecommunications and cricket has now been acquired by Digicel. A cool move on their part, and just before the World Cricket makes it positively stellar ! Lets hope their cellphone services live up to the world class cricketers whose names they promote.
So cricket, which is normally around second on the chat list, is now outclassing even politics in whichever country you are in. As we get closer to 2007, it will become the only topic! In a local bus a Bajan said to the Antiguan taxi driver, as we drove past the cricket stadium outside St. Johns, "are you rebuilding your stadium where it is or making a new one for 2007? We are building a new one." "So are we," responded the Antiguan almost huffily, and launched into a detailed monologue on the new cricket stadium about which he seemed to know an awful lot. But everyone's a cricket expert these days.
But now I wonder whether cricket and national freedoms go together? A senior government official told me "I am really quite scared of 2007 and what its going to bring to us" she continued, "People here have no idea of what's going to happen, and we in government are quite worried."
You see global sponsors such as Coca-Cola and others have already bought the advertising rights to the cricket stadiums throughout the region, where the major games are to be played. This means for example that you cannot wear a t-shirt, drive a car, sell anything, carry a bag or a bottle, with any commercial logo or picture on it, inside and outside within a specific radius of the stadium, of your own choice. Only advertising for the official sponsor will be allowed, whether you like the product or not."Antiguans," she continued with concern, "aren't used to that. They like their freedoms!"
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