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Wake-up call for Windies World Cup

Yesterday's co-ordinated explosions in the British capital will have alarm bells ringing everywhere major events or meetings of any kind are to be staged

Fazeer Mohammed

Will excessive security dampen their enthusiasm? © Getty Images
What a wake-up call, and not just for Londoners. Yesterday's co-ordinated explosions in the British capital will have alarm bells ringing everywhere major events or meetings of any kind are to be staged.
Not that they need to be reminded of the potential dangers, of course, but the organisers of the 2007 Cricket World Cup must see these incidents, apart from all the other more immediate considerations, in the context of their security arrangements for the biggest event of any kind ever to be staged in the Caribbean.
Early expert opinion suggested that the bomb blasts were targeted to coincide with the opening day of the G-8 summit further up north in the Scottish town of Gleneagles.
Yet that should be little consolation to organisers of the 2012 Summer Olympic Games, who have barely had time to celebrate the announcement in Singapore less than 24 hours earlier that London had edged out Paris in one of the closest contests ever for the right to host the Games.
Here, in these sun-drenched territories where every nation has its own version of Trinidad time, a general indifference to safety and security issues on a large scale persists.
It may therefore be a bit of a culture shock when the World Cup comes around in less than two years' time for fans accustomed to parking halfway up the pavement or dragging in coolers as large as small cars into the ground.
Rising crime and the increasing threat of kidnapping may have many people much more aware of their personal safety and that of their families, but it is another matter to get people to accept repeated searches at various points approaching the Queen's Park Oval and again upon entering the ground.
To tell some hardened soul accustomed to being dropped off almost at the front gate that no vehicular traffic is allowed within a mile of the match venue is to invite strident vocal resistance, if nothing else.
All of this has obviously become necessary within the past four years, and given the proximity to the United States, there is the fear that those bent on sending some sort of message to our minders up north will use the opportunity of the Cricket World Cup to make their mark. It was therefore not all that surprising when the proposed venue in Florida was turned down by World Cup organisers a year ago.
The prospect of thousands of cricket fans from countries whose citizens are viewed with suspicion trying to get through US customs is a logistical nightmare in itself.
My understanding is that an even greater, and more costly, challenge was adapting the American satellite television format to work with the general format to be used for World Cup coverage.
There is little doubt, though, especially given America's increasingly interventionist policy across the globe, that World Cup organisers are grateful they at least don't have that particular headache to deal with.
There is the danger, however, of making security so much of an overriding concern that cricket matches in such idyllic settings with so many visitors from so many parts of the world would actually become a suffocating exercise of shuttling from airport to hotel to ground to sanitised tourist spots.
Much of the effort and expense by most Caribbean governments for World Cup 2007 is intended not just to make the guests happy, but so satisfied with everything that they would like to come back again and again.
Freedom of movement-within each territory and from island to island-will be an essential aspect of the ideal experience, hence the much-talked about Sunset Legislation that Caribbean leaders are supposed to ensure is passed into law and ready for implementation in the weeks before the first ball is bowled at the redeveloped Sabina Park in 18 months' time.
For anyone who has to endure the long lines, perennial delays and lost luggage every season when there is just one visiting team in the Caribbean, the consequences of thousands of fun-loving but impatient fans travelling through the region are almost frightening.
But given our innate tendency to do our very best to please our guests, even at the expense of the natives, I expect that everything would be put in place. You wouldn't want to stop these cheery folks from spending their wads of foreign currency, now would you?
Actually this year, in covering the series first with South Africa and then Pakistan, I often opted for the "Visitors" line rather than the "Nationals and other Caricom Citizens" queue.
Mr Smith from Newark and Miss Jones from Cardiff always seemed to have to endure fewer questions than Tantie Doris from Vieux Fort or Akbar Mamoo from Rosignol.
As usual with our part of the world, much of the physical infrastructure in preparation for the World Cup is behind schedule, although, as the Greeks did in pulling off a superb Athens Olympics last year despite similar challenges, there is too much at stake not to get it done right and just in the nick of time.
In preparing for the event, information is just as important as steel and concrete, and the World Cup Organising Committee must see it as a priority that, while security can never ever be completely guaranteed, no effort is spared to make everyone aware of the need to abide by the rules, regulations and restrictions in the hope of avoiding anything remotely like what happened in London yesterday.