In less than three years, the tiny Caribbean nation of St. Kitts and Nevis is once again playing host to a major international sporting event with the confidence and professionalism of seasoned experts.
This time around the “little country that could” is staging the first round Women’s matches of the আইসিসি World Twenty20 West Indies 2010 Cricket Tournament that is being played in St. Kitts from May 2-11. Overall, the 17-day tournament features 12 men’s and eight women’s teams with all the top international players in the world taking part.
The teams include Twenty 20 World Champions from England, The West Indies
Australia, Sri lanka, New Zealand, South Africa, India, and Pakistan.
The Semi Final matches will be played in St. Lucia and the Finals for both Men’s and Women’s will be played in Barbados on May 16.
Hosting the ICC Championships, with all of its inevitable logistical difficulties would be a daunting task for any nation, but the twin island destination of St. Kitts and Nevis is handling this event with much aplomb and taking it all in stride.
ICC chief executive Haroon Lorgat said: “We expect the ICC World 20/20 to be another huge success and one of the more widely-viewed cricket events in the history of the game as we enjoy the unique passion and enthusiasm for our great sport in the Caribbean.”
During the 2007 Cricket World Cup that was also staged in the Caribbean, the 68-square-mile island of St. Kitts gained the respect and admiration of the international cricket fraternity for its efficiency in hosting first-round matches of the tournament.
The federation is also expected to earn additional plaudits as an international sporting venue and receive a tremendous boost for making further inroads into the lucrative sports tourism market.
St. Kitts’ Minister of Tourism and International Transport, Richard “Ricky” Skerritt recently said, “Sports tourism is a steadily growing market for us.” The minister also explained, “This event (twenty20) is the perfect example of the type of world-class experiences we are attracting from golf and cricket to music and cuisine.”
Minister Skerritt is also of the opinion that sporting fans will be coming to St. Kitts for more than just a cricket tournament, “Those who come to the island for a sporting event will also experience a taste of our island’s scenic natural beauty, rich heritage, and genuine friendly people, after which we are convinced that visiting cricket fans and officials will want to tell their family and friends about us and return for longer stays as tourists.”
The ICC tournament comes on the heels of the 5th Annual St. Kitts Legends Golf Classic, April 21-25, and June 24-26 will see the 14th Annual St. Kitts International Music Festival, which features an eclectic mix of musical genres and a host of world-class entertainers.
From June 18-22, the West Indies will take on South Africa in a Cricket Test match at the famous Warner Park, which is expected to attract hundreds of cricket fans mainly from the neighboring islands of St. Martin, the British and US Virgin Islands, North America, and England.
The CEO of the St. Kitts Tourism Authority, Rosecita Jeffers, emphatically believes that hosting international sporting events is a “feather in the cap for the island.” She said: “For a small country like St. Kitts, the benefits to be derived from hosting international cricket matches are enormous. Firstly, it allows the country to benefit from the economic impact created. And from a tourism and hospitality perspective, the country is expected to benefit by providing its world-class accommodation facilities to the many cricket fans who will be visiting the island before and after the games.”
According to Clement O’Garro, corporate communications officer – St.Kitts, “The staging of the 2007 World Cup Cricket matches in St. Kitts has already enhanced our reputation as a first-rate sporting venue, which was realized when the touring world cricket champions, Australia, insisted that St. Kitts be included on the itinerary for their 2008 tour of the Caribbean”.
Following the 2007 Cricket World Cup, Hershell Gibbs, the South African batsman who set a world record at Warner Park in St. Kitts by striking six sixes in one over in a World Cup match, returned to St. Kitts several months later to tie the nuptial knot. This wedding was widely covered in the international press.
Warner Park was also the venue for another world record. West Indies
female batter, Deandra Dottin, had the distinction of scoring the fastest century (100 runs) in the current 20/20 matches in St. Kitts.
St. Kitts’ success in hosting International Cricket test matches would not have been possible if Warner Park, originally built in 1928, was not rebuilt, with the assistance of the Taiwanese government, to the highest international standards for the 2007 World Cup.
The picturesque Warner Park, often described as one of the finest in the Caribbean, has a full seating capacity of 10,000, which is more than 20 percent of the island’s population.
St. Kitts and Nevis has also helped its cause by producing Kim Collins, one of the Caribbean’s most accomplished track and field stars who firmly placed the federation on the world map of athletics. Collins who retired earlier this year won gold medals at the 2002 Commonwealth Games in England and at the 2003 World Championships in France.
CEO Jeffers is acutely aware that St. Kitts, with its limited resources, will depend on getting global publicity through hosting major international sporting events and at the same time enhance its reputation as a highly-respected sporting destination.
“Hosting a top international event creates unbelievable exposure for the destination, which in many instances would not be able to pay for,” said Jeffers, who added, “The outside world will see our country in a new light – a country and a people capable of undertaking major assignments and executing them with a great level of efficiency… especially if our hosting of the event turns out to be successful and rewarding.”
St. Kitts and Nevis will certainly benefit from the explosion of media exposure, which the Twenty20 will bring to the Caribbean and specifically the islands, which are hosting matches. According to ESPN STAR Sports managing director, Manu Sawhney, “The ICC World 20 is the most exciting and definitive twenty20 international cricket event in the world, and we are very pleased to bring the action to millions of fans in over 181 territories across the globe through our network, our syndication partners, and specially with live streaming on www.espnstar.com.”
Based on St. Kitts and Nevis’ exemplary track record in hosting major sporting events, this “little country that could” and which continues “to punch above its weight” will continue to surprise its Caribbean neighbors and the rest of the world by continuing to host even larger and more prestigious events.