Cricket World Cup ticket circus is in Town


By Trevor Chesterfield | October 21, 2010

ICC Cricket World Cup trophy
The ICC Cricket World Cup trophy displayed in Colombo on April 2, 2010. AFP PHOTO/ Lakruwan WANNIARACHCHI.

If you live in Sri Lanka, don’t bother to queue to get your World Cup tickets.

Not unless you are an MP, or some local bigwig who has little to do with the game, but is invited by Sri Lanka Cricket because it is the smart thing to do. They get the freebie version.

The public, who have to buy their tickets, are being told to be patient. A little like the Commonwealth Games fiasco in New Delhi with officials failing to have tickets ready because they were forgotten and why in some cases, events had largely empty stadiums.

Then again, how many ticket launches are needed for the International Cricket Council’s next World Cup? There was the circus of the on April 2 this year in Colombo with the ticket launch to coincide with the date of the CWC11 final next year. As this is in Mumbai and not Colombo, the ICC hierarchy of the then vice-president Sharad Pawar and CEO Haroon Lorgat, and the local so-called organising committee were trying to pull a fast one.

As this event was, on Good Friday, 70 percent of the local media boycotted the media conference, lunch and the lavish evening banquet. It was also held without the then ICC president, David Morgan who, it seems didn’t get an invite. Interesting that one.

Tickets were handed out to the MPs and all the VIPs. Shortly before the third Test between Sri Lanka and India at Saravanamuttu Oval, even the head honcho of the ICC organising committee, Ratnakar Shetty, arrived to present the mascot “Stumpy”.

On Sunday October 17, there was another ticket launch, this one for the new Hambantota venue at Sooriyawewa and not renovated, which has a totally different meaning; the venue is as yet incomplete. But there were MPs, Sanath Jayasuriya and Namal Rajapaksa along with the Minister of Sport, C B Rathnayake. The sports minister was dishing out the goodies – tickets for the regional MPs and town mayors, along with whoever else was on the list of local big shots.

There are a handful of those who declined to attend the April 2 launch along with those labelled as foreign media, and foreign news agencies, who were not invited to Sooriyawewa. Rumour has it there is a blacklist drawn up by the Sri Lanka organising committee for the World Cup and approved by SLC of those who they don’t want to attend any of their so-called profiling events.

There was a lot of jingoism during the handing over of the tickets and the smirks and facetious smiles typical of how the sycophants behave when receiving freebies and handouts.

There has been wrangling over how building two of the three planned venues from scratch will miss the deadlines set by the International Cricket Council, and how the World Cup is being run by an organising committee without administrative credentials and of dubious quality. This alone adds to the growing intrigue as well as claims of financial corruption and hiring and firing without consultation and nepotism at the highest level.

Parachuted into the positions of head of the Sri Lanka CWC11 organising committee and his deputy are Suraj Dandeniya and his cousin, Kapila Dandeniya: nephews of the Sri Lanka Cricket chairman, Somachandra de Silva. Their appointments were done without advertising the posts and already the US$5000 monthly salary that Suraj Dandeniya earns, has created criticism.

Suraj Dandeniya is alleged to have hijacked one of the interim committee meetings back in June and laid down certain conditions of how he would handle affairs in his department. It is a charge that has never been denied. As this was after the new Minister of Sport, C B Rathnayake was appointed there was an impression of cleaning up the board after labelling it the “third most corrupt” in the country. It was argued Suraj was on his way out.

Not a chance. Suraj went ahead and roped in Tracy Francis, a so-called media consultant, who has yet to issue any media notices of the organising committee.

As no game has as yet been played at the venue, which is in an area where there is no local club structure east of Matara, the question of apart from a political motive what use is there of such a venue. And how Anuruddha Polonowita can say the pitch is in great shape when as yet no game has been played on the surface, is yet another of the faux comments coming out of the government offices in Maitland Place.

So, when is the public invited to one of these fancy ticket ceremonies? Well, there is a chance that a ticket office is opened in Maitland Place and that is when the public get their tickets – by buying them. No doubt, when the new Premadasa is “unveiled” selected members of the public, those who are friends of the ad-hoc or organising committee, will be photographed buying their tickets. Yet with the number of freebies handed out to MPs and the head honcho wallahs of regional areas and others not involved with the game, whether there will be any tickets left for the public is another matter.

© Trevor Chesterfield/Island Cricket.
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