LASTING LEGACY?: Barbados’ earnings above rest
SEVEN CITIES have enjoyed the honour of staging the final of a Cricket World Cup. Bridgetown is one of them. It is also the smallest to have done so.
As Barbados celebrated National Heroes Day on April 28, 2007, it was hosting the showpiece match of the mega event, culminating the six-week tournament in which the island was also home to six Super Eight – or second round – matches.
It crowned years of planning for the event that many anticipated would bring tremendous material benefits to the island.
And what were some of the benefits that accrued to Barbados?
It was a question that was put to Chris deCaires, chairman of World Cup Barbados, the local organising committee charged with the responsibility of managing the country’s involvement in the event.
Barbados earned between $25 million and $30 million in actual cash revenue, he disclosed. It was double more than any other Caribbean island. Economic activity in the build-up and during the World Cup increased. Spin-off benefits were also notable, with studies showing the exposure Barbados gained amounted to almost $200 million of advertising. We now also boast of a world-class venue after more than $135 million was spent in redeveloping Kensington Oval.
Decent enough on paper. Eight years after the World Cup, however, some are still questioning if the investment was justified.
“Absolutely. I personally have no doubt about it. How do you get that down to the average man, I am not sure. You put $135 million into a stadium and you have a stadium. It has to be worth something,” deCaires said.
“We have the exposure that the BTA [the then Barbados Tourism Authority] has valued at $200 million. Discount that by 75 per cent and that is still $50 million. In Barbados, people made a lot of money that year. Tourism was up by 15 per cent. All of that has trickled down. Our unemployment at that time was probably the lowest it has ever been.”
While deCaires acknowledged that the legacy from the event is difficult to evaluate, he contended that Barbados was able to demonstrate that it was capable of hosting a world-class event.
To have been awarded the final was a major achievement, he argued, considering that many people thought Jamaica was the favourite, given its size and other considerations.
Barbados won the bid to host the final, he said, largely because the island presented a professional package that was put together by a good team that had the backing of Government.
“We were able to deliver on all of our promises. The ICC evaluated us on a regular basis and we were always ahead of everyone else. It showed that Barbados has a very good infrastructure,” deCaires said.
“Throughout the whole Caribbean, I think we hosted a very good World Cup. For Barbados, many Barbadians felt a sense of pride that we delivered what we promised. The people who went to the games at Kensington felt they were in an international arena.”
Although pointing to the benefits that came Barbados’ way, deCaires admits the bottom line would have been more favourable had India and Pakistan not made a surprise exit after the first round. The two crowd pullers were earmarked to meet in a match at Kensington which eventually turned out to be an unattractive contest between Bangladesh and Ireland.
As deCaires puts it, the World Cup was a business and business has risk and the risk that Barbados suffered was that India and Pakistan didn’t qualify for the Super Eights.
An experienced businessman and the recently appointed chairman of the Barbados Entrepreneurship Foundation, deCaires said it was not straightforward in gauging the legacy benefits from the World Cup.
“Given that we don’t measure things anyway, I don’t think you can measure it. I was always under the impression that the legacy would be whatever it happened to be,” said the former chairman of the Barbados Private Sector Association.
“For example, the volunteer programme . . . before we got into the World Cup, we were advised by many people that Barbados does not have a volunteer culture and therefore we would struggle. We had more than 1 000 volunteers and they were well organised. It was the first time we did it.”
While arguing that the overall investment in the World Cup was justified, deCaires feels the money spent of upgrading Kensington Oval has not brought subsequent returns, largely due to the underutilisation of the venue since 2007 and the global economic downturn.
In going forward, he suggested the facility had to be used more often and managed properly.
“Where we have expertise, to some extent, is maintaining facilities and running things we have done before. Where we don’t have the skills is in bringing new things to the stadium,” deCaires said.
“At the moment, I’m trying to help Kensington in financial matters. One of the key things that we need to do is develop the marketing of that property. To do that, most likely it has to be an international market.
“We therefore need people with international experience, whether those are Barbadians or international people. The chances are there are more international people with international experience than they are Barbadians with that type of knowledge. We probably need to look around internationally to see whether we need help to bring events.”
Following the 2007 World Cup, Barbados also hosted the final of the 2010 World Twenty20.
According to deCaires, we need another big event to build things back up in the midst of the recession.