Just a few days ago, the National Stadium at Providence once again saw sold-out audiences for home games of the Guyana Amazon Warriors (GAW) as the Caribbean Premier League (CPL) 2019 is truly on its way. With growing anticipation over the years, fans, including children, were characteristically vibrant in their participation throughout the innumerable and predictable celebrations for any given match.
This is what CPL has come to represent as it continues to bring people from all backgrounds together in a national demonstration of unity for a common cause. A mere glance at any given moment during a game could cause questioning of the existence of the national crisis which has dominated the news over the past nine months. There seemed little or no room for any such contemplation. Partisanship seemed abandoned as camaraderie and unbridled support once again took over.
This is how it has been since the CPL commenced in 2013 and the organisers and franchises must be commended and encouraged to continue providing the opportunities to help unify. The positive impact is not only invaluable, but seemed even more relevant at this juncture. One critical factor to facilitate and sustain this, is the stadium itself. Since its establishment twelve years ago, it has come to symbolise a national vessel for togetherness, be it through CPL games, other sporting events, or concerts.
It is possibly an underestimated or even overlooked factor in its very important national role. Without it, what would have been? That’s an important question, especially in the context of the iconic and historic Bourda ground becoming far more easily inundated, seemingly with the slightest of showers. Its use came into question especially when rain became synonymous with cricket and the hosting of international games threatened.
With cricket over the years becoming a more globalised sport and heavy emphasis on television marketing, host nations and facilities are thrust into the international spotlight. If, for some reason, that may have been taken for granted, Cricket World Cup (CWC) 2007— hosted for the first time by the West Indies— brought home that reality. Host Caribbean nations swiftly went into overdrive to meet international standards.
Guyana may have been trapped with the Bourda facility, despite its glorious history, was riddled with drainage and some infrastructural challenges. That placed the country at risk of becoming a host for cricket’s biggest and most prestigious show. Not being a host could not have been an option. A bold decision was then taken to construct a modern facility out of the congested City. With work around the clock, the stadium was realised as was a brand-new mega hotel to boost accommodation capacity.
The decision for a new stadium, with infrastructure to facilitate concerts of international standards, exemplified visionary thinking with firm commitment to modernise Guyana. It was one of the many projects that saw Guyana’s infrastructural landscape being positively transformed and the provision of much-needed facilities.
The building of four-lane roadways along the East Bank and East Coast of Demerara, the Berbice Bridge, the Arthur Chung Convention Centre, the Marriott Hotel, the University of Guyana Tain Campus, the Ophthalmology Centre, new regional hospitals and schools, upgrading the electricity sector through new power plants and the expansion of the Information Communication Technology (ICT) sector, are just a few initiatives that formed part of Guyana’s modernisation pathway envisaged and implemented by the People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPPC) government.
The visionary Amaila Hydroelectricity and Specialty Hospital projects were scuttled by the then APNU/AFC Opposition and funding withheld for the Marriott and expansion of the Cheddi Jagan International Airport (CJIA).
That transformation under the PPPC was realised at a time when the country experienced unprecedented and sustained economic growth for many years helping it to earn the label as the Caribbean’s shining star. Then, the economy boomed and it redounded positively to Guyanese as their standard of living and personal wealth were vastly improved.
Today, under an APNU/AFC government, things are not as robust. There is continuous lamentation of how sluggish the economy is, how cost of living has risen steeply making it difficult for families to be provided for and the challenges faced by scheduled extensive power outages— a stark difference to just five years ago.
In analysing, one can only imagine what could have been had the scuttled projects been realised. One can also only imagine the possibilities which could have been opened up, after all, who, in 2007, other than those with the vision, could have contemplated the positive impact and importance of the stadium? Who then could have imagined the East Bank, especially, being transformed the way it is now? The same question can be asked of the Marriott, the Convention Centre, the Berbice Bridge and the other envisaged transformative projects.
Today, their absence is a frightening contemplation. Just imagine the country and cricket without the stadium. Just imagine the lack of opportunities for families to enjoy and cheer at a sporting event there. Without visionary thinking and bold implementation, cricket could not have been played louder and watched in unison at the stadium.