Performers dance as fireworks illuminate the night sky during the opening ceremony of the World Cup © Getty Images

The final hour before the festivities began was like watching a particularly slow fielder on the third man boundary moving awkwardly towards a high, swirling catch. The ball was in the air, the clock was ticking, and you just knew he didn't have a chance. He couldn't. It just wasn't going to happen.

Large parts of the enormous stage used during the opening ceremony were still being constructed with an hour to go and some of the organisers were starting to panic. You knew that because they were awake, unlike many of the construction workers at Sabina Park on the other side of the island or at the Kensington Oval in Barbados where completing their shiny new stadiums really is becoming a genuine irritation to the sleeping patterns of the work force.

The traffic queues getting into Trewlany's multi-purpose Greenfields Stadium were long and very slow moving; it was a hot and steamy afternoon and the traffic officers did their best but weren't helped by the endless stream of screaming VIP vehicles jumping the queue.

Stadium and event staff had been well briefed to maintain the traditions of inflexibility and stubbornness first started by the gatemen at Lord's over a century ago and patrons wishing to view the ceremony only just missed out on a full, rubber-gloved body search. And woe betide anyone wishing to sit in an alternative seat to the one numbered on their ticket, no matter how many empty seats there were in the vicinity.

Then, finally, it started. With a marching brass band! It wasn't immediately obvious to those of us in the stadium whether that bit was televised to the rest of the world, but it was incongruous, to say the least, in the land which gave the world Bob Marley.

The speeches were short and to the point, well scripted and well delivered. Then the real show began. And what a show it was.

Perhaps my enjoyment was made so complete by the presence of a colleague next to me who experienced previously unimagined levels of excitement at seeing Buju Banton sing live for the first time. And the reception that greeted Sean Paul (who, for the uninitiated, sings a form of reggae called 'Dancehall', I think) was greater than that which greeted Brian Lara when he swore the players oath on behalf of all 16 competing nations.

The entertainment had been billed as a voyage through Jamaica's history and culture in the form of music and dance, and that is exactly what it was. The running commentary from my friend added joyfully to the occasion and it is actually possible, remarkably, that I learnt something. I certainly learned that I am now a fan of a singer called 'Half Pint' although he wasn't nearly as good as South Africa's Lucky Dube who was as brilliant as ever, but then I am biased.



'The entertainment had been billed as a voyage through Jamaica's history and culture in the form of music and dance, and that is exactly what it was' © Getty Images

'Soca' is not, I now know, a game played between two teams of 11 involving a ball, but a dance form that requires extraordinary strength and energy. As does 'ska'. The dancers on stilts were hilarious, and the parade of the teams worked a treat with the dulcit and familiar tones of Tony Cozier providing the introductions. Spirits rose and rose, as the did the enthusiasm of volume of the crowd. Suddenly it didn't seem important that you had to pay over US$2 for a cup of water and it certainly didn't matter that the stage was still being bolted together moments before the performance.

The organising committee, apparently, had to make use of three local companies and eight generators to provide the power to light a stadium with no floodlights and for that alone they deserve enormous credit. Jamaica and its citizens deserve credit. It may not have happened this way, bit it would appear that the Caribbean's cricket playing islands asked themselves what it was that bound them together, apart from cricket. The answer, of course, is music and dance. So they pretty much stuck to that. And it worked. Gloriously.

The fielder lurched, took a step or two in the wrong direction, over compensated and nearly tripped, but he was steady for the final, critical second with the entire match at stake and the world watching, and the ball landed as safely as a joey returning to its mother's pouch. And the crowd rose as one, raising their arms and roaring their approval.

As opening ceremonies go, it really was bloody good. Bring on the games.

Neil Manthorp is a South African broadcaster and journalist, and head of the MWP Sport agency. He is currently commentating at the World Cup for SABC Radio.