Behind the scenes at the cricket world cup

Much has been said about the exposure and economic benefits this Cricket World Cup is going to bring South Africa. However little is said about the people who are exploited in the process of making these benefits materialise.

I’m talking, for instance, about the 5 000 people who supposedly volunteered to make the R30 million opening ceremony possible on Saturday night. For six months these people slaved away in what is called rehearsals, using their own spare time without any hope of receiving any form of remuneration.

The only people receiving compensation are people like Rupert Murdoch and other big business people like himself. Practically speaking, Murdoch owns the International Cricket Council (ICC). In 2002, the ICC entered into an agreement with the World Sports Group (WSG). The agreement stipulated that the WSG was to acquire all the television and sponsorship rights at a cost of $550 million. The expiring date for the agreement is 2007.

Soon after the agreement was signed, WSG formed a consortium with Murdoch’s News Corporation. It was not long before Murdoch bought out the WSG, making him a 100 percent financial controller of the rights to the Cricket World Cup.

Pepsi is another company that has secured itself exclusive rights. Because of the agreement signed with the latter, only Pepsi products are to be consumed at the grounds. Further, a person is only allowed to bring to the grounds a half litre of water and that he or she must make sure the water is in a soft plastic bottle, unbranded.

Seemingly, the rationale behind this policy is profit-making and return of investments. As the cricket match takes a whole day, Pepsi knows no human-being can sustain themselves with 500 ml of water that whole time. The bottom line is that all those wanting to quench their thirst at this 54-match tournament, will have to pay Pepsi.

This proves that these kind of events are no longer about nations coming together to celebrate sports; rather, it’s just a money-making scheme that business make profit from once every four years.

Eskom, a South African electricity company, also went to the bank smiling. For the opening ceremony, 2 000 lights were used, 1 500 km of cables, 15 000 amps of power, 12 generators and 40 000 watts of sound power. Such high energy consumption is an outrage.

Not too long ago, the same country was heralding sustainable ways of energy consumption at the World Summit for Sustainable Development.

To bring this circus to our shores, it cost R500 million, according to the executive director of the Cricket World Cup, Ali Bacher.

He tells us the expenditure included flying the 13 visiting teams business class and making sure each player receives a meal allowance of $50 a day as well as a daily laundry allowance of R120 ($14. 35). This is the same country that claims it cannot afford to give free anti-retrovial drugs to its 4 million HIV positive citizens.

While the organisers make sure that they look after their sponsors and that each player has pocket money, the two presidents from the co-hosting countries, Robert Mugabe from Zimbabwe and Mwai Kibaki from Kenya received a cold shoulder. They did not even get an invite to attend the opening ceremony.

As if this was not enough embarrassment for the co-hosts, the English team was on the verge of refusing to play in Harare. Also the New Zealand team refuses to play Kenya in Nairobi. Both are said to be fearing for their lives – claiming high security risks in these two countries.

Leading up to the world cup, the South African team had its own political conflicts. At one point, the African National Congress Youth League threatened to disrupt the tournament if the quota system was not utilized when choosing the national squad.

The national sports minister, Ngconde Balfour was quoted in a local newspaper as saying he was not interested in “watching a Jacques Kallis” (a white cricket player) and further if it were not for the world cup, he would close South African cricket down.

However, as Bacher explained in an interview with a local newspaper, the games are continuing and “we want all those matches to be fulfilled”.

If Balfour wanted to put an end to cricket South Africa, he couldn’t, for the same reason that there is a mounting pressure on the English and New Zealand team to rethink their stances of not wanting to play Zimbabwe and Kenya.

Bacher eloquently put it that the big issue is the sponsors and broadcasters who have “bought a package” of 54 matches. Meaning anything less than 54 might compel the sponsors to claim for financial compensation from the ICC.

Proving once more that the thinking behind events like these is profit-making and ensuring return of investment. At the same time it drives the point home that commercialisation has not only deprived us of enjoyment of sports and all the other traditional activities that we hold dear to our hearts, but that it rules.

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