Clouds over the World Cup carnival

Organisers start to bus in schoolchildren to fill the empty stadiums

This World Cup was supposed to be a calypso carnival. It is in danger of becoming the tournament that nobody watched. The mood inevitably altered after the tragic death of Bob Woolmer in Jamaica, but that cannot explain the absence of crowds everywhere. A case of calypso collapso is imminent.

"It is disappointing and it could bring down the tone and therefore affect the importance of the event," said the commercial director of the tournament, Stephen Price. "But we have put immediate plans in place to ensure that there are bums on seats for the rest of the games in the Super Eight stage."

The extent of the apparent indifference became startlingly clear in Antigua on Tuesday. West Indies, the host nation, were playing Australia, the defending champions. The spiffing new ground at North Sound was pristine.

Its standard 10,000 capacity had been increased to 19,000 especially for the World Cup, probably for this match. A mere 9,500 turned up, although 11,000 tickets had been sold, and when the match went into a second day that went down to 4,000. Brian Lara, the West Indies captain, was visibly angry, and said the players were affected by it.

Blame is busily being appor-tioned and denied. If the International Cricket Council, whose event it is, are bothered, they are probably not losing sleep. Their money is already in the bank from the Global Cricket Corporation, who own the television rights, and their corporate sponsors.

Ticket prices have been set by the local organising committees, and the minimum in Antigua is US$25 (£12.70), a significant sum, as the unemploy-ment rate is approaching 20 per cent. The new ground stands in isolated glory and most traffic is prevented from getting within three-quarters of a mile of it. In Guyana, the difficulties have been aggravated by a less efficient local committee, who were effectively sacked last week.

It is also far from straightforward entering stadiums, with bags and body searches both for security and to ensure the sponsors are wholly protected. No drinks are allowed in, soft or hard. The impression is that you are not at a carnival but a G8 summit.

"I don't think ticket prices have affected attendances," said Price. "The lowest price is fine. But I think that more visitors were expected and they just haven't shown up. Midweek matches can also be difficult for people living in the place because they have to go to work."

Antigua has a population of only 68,000, who used to turn up in their droves to watch Viv Richards at the old Recreation Ground. But that was in the centre of the capital, St John's, and now there is no Viv. Still, the local population are genuinely thrilled at having the World Cup on their doorstep.

The lack of live crowds is also affecting the World Cup on television, because the viewer is less engaged. Broadcasters recognise that a sporting event watched by a large crowd makes for better television. But Barney Francis, the Sky cricket producer, said the main objective was to show events on the pitch.

"It's true there can be fewer cutaway shots to the crowd at the end of the over, showing their reactions," he said. "This can also be a bit more difficult when it's a tight or spectacular game and you want to see them biting their nails or not able to watch. But I'm sure anybody watching a match like that between Sri Lanka and South Africa would have been utterly gripped even though there were very few spectators."

There should be lessons to be learned for the next World Cup, on the subcontinent in 2011. The West Indian organisers intend to learn now. With six Super Eight matches left in Antigua and Guyana, members of local cricket clubs and schools will be bussed in to fill some of the gaps. It is expected that most games in Barbados will be packed out (though what was supposed to be India against Pakistan is now Ireland against Bangladesh). Grenada is reportedly above 50 per cent ticket sales.

"It is disappointing," said Price. "We do not wish the World Cup to be remembered for empty stadiums. But we won't stop working."

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee