Colourfully-clad performers take part in the opening ceremony of the Cricket World Cup in Florence Hall, Trelawny, with a fireworks display in the background. - photos by Ricardo Makyn/Staff Photographer
Daraine Luton, Staff Reporter
Florence Hall, Trelawny:
Jamaica last night delivered a lavish ceremony to introduce the ICC Cricket World Cup 2007 which legendary West Indies batsman Sir Garfield Sobers declared open in the Caribbean for the first time in the region's history.
"On behalf of the West Indies, it is my honour and privilege to declare this the ninth tournament of the ICC Cricket World Cup officially open," said Sir Gary to ear-splitting cheers and fireworks just before 7:30 p.m.
Sir Gary's declaration was ushered in by the symbolic passing of the baton from South Africa to the West Indies by the performance of reggae star Lucky Dube, whose country hosted the 2003 tournament.
The ceremony, dubbed West Indian Energy, lived up to its billing of showcasing the energy of the region through sound, colour and movement. Even if spectators had just landed from Mars, from the moment the Massed bands and Corps of Drums of the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) entered the immaculately carpeted field, they could immediately sense the West Indian energy, which intensified when the army men marched to form the pattern C W C '07 and struck up the West Indies anthem, Rally Round the West Indies.
More than 10,000 persons wit-nessed the colourful opening including, Chris Dehring, managing director and chief executive officer of CWC WI 2007 Inc.; ICC President Percy Sonn; CEO Malcolm Speed and vice-president of the West Indies Cricket Board Val Banks. Governor-General Professor Kenneth Hall; his predecessor Sir Howard Cooke and former Prime Minister P.J. Patterson, who was instrumental in bringing the games to Jamaica, also watched as history unfolded in Florence Hall, Trelawny.
Dehring, the first of the officials to speak, commented: "This evening, I am immensely proud to be a West Indian. This is the moment that makes the sweat and tears, the hard work and sacrifice all worth the while."
Dr. Keith Mitchell, Prime Minister of Grenada and chairman of the CARICOM sub-committee on cricket, noted that, for the region, "Cricket World Cup 2007 is not just a prestigious cricket tournament. It is the realisation of a great dream."
Dubbed West Indian energy because it showcased talents and culture from all Caribbean countries, organisers had promised "the biggest gala pan-Caribbean presentation of West Indies music, culture and way of life appropriate for the launching of this historic event".
Banks, who represented Ken Gordon, the WICB president, said it was appropriate for the event to be launched in Jamaica, "the most beautiful of the ten most beautiful countries in the world". He received tremendous shouts of approval from the appreciative crowd.
As night fell on the well-organised and executed ceremony, the 16 participating teams, led by defending champions Australia, graced the field for the official declaration, each taking with them a young child, a demonstration of their unity for children and support for the fight against AIDS.
The West Indies, as hosts, was the last team to appear, arriving from the western end of the ground. Captain Brian Lara and his men received tremendous applause.
It took US$2.5 million and more than 2,500 persons, many of them volunteers, to stage the well-lit ceremony, which started promptly at 5:15 p.m. and culminated with a fireworks display. Various world acclaimed artistes, including Shaggy, Sean Paul, Jimmy Cliff and Lucky Dube, rocked officials and spectators with a battery of hit songs.
Night had hardly fallen at the picturesque ground when ICC president Percy Sonn remarked that the West Indies must rank among the most idyllic, certainly romantic, and definitely aesthetically stunning cricketing venues on the globe.
The opening ceremony not only marked the start of the tournament but also the end of Trelawny's role in staging the Cricket World Cup. The Cricket World Cup comes to an end on April 28 in Barbados, four days after Jamaica hosts the first semi-final at Sabina Park, where the tournament's first game takes place tomorrow.
Opening Ceremony Pictorial
Fans of the West Indies cricket team show their support.
Cricket fans hoist the Jamaica flag in support of the West Indies. - Ricardo Makyn/Staff Photographer
Fireworks spectacle at the World Cup Cricket opening ceremony inTrelawny.
The Massed bands and Corps of Drums of the Jamaica Defence Force peform during the opening ceremony of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2007 at the Trelawny Multi-purpose Stadium in Florence Hall, Trelawny yesterday.
A fire eater performs during the opening ceremony of the Cricket World Cup at the Trelawny Multi-purpose Stadium yesterday. - Reuters
Members of the South African Drum Caf? add to the eclectic beat of the multicultural performances. - Junior Dowie/Staff Photographer
A fan of the Pakistan cricket team shows his love. - Ricardo Makyn/Staff Photographer