The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Organisers set to break race barriers

Colombo: The controversy surrounding the introduction of race quotas in South African cricket may have been settled for the time being, but the World Cup organising committee is looking forward to setting a new chapter in unity among the blacks and whites. Nelson Mandela will be playing a big role in giving a new dimension to this effort. “It will be an opportunity to get the black and white people back on track like never before,” Dr Ali Bacher said Sunday.

“You must be represented by a larger cross section of people. You’ve got to make cricket popular among the black and white alike. It’s morally right if you are looking at the larger picture because instead of five million people, you’re tapping into 43 million people,” Dr Bacher added.

Mandela will appear on TV commercials as part of the World Cup promotional campaign. The meet will, however, be inaugurated by South African President Thabo Mbeki on February 8, 2003 at a glittering ceremony. No foreign artists will be involved and it will be an indigenous affair.

“The inauguration will be the biggest any World Cup has witnessed so far. Four thousand performers, a mix of both races, will perform a two-hour programme. It will be a congregation of music, cricket and culture,” he informed. South Africa’s leading musicians will perform.

Around 3,500 volunteers have been specially trained to look after people and make the tournament a huge success. “Like the Olympics, the World Cup will be a way of taking our culture to the people and helping them. These volunteers have been specially trained and we’ll not have to pay them anything,” said Dr Bacher.

The promotion of the event will, however, begin two months before the scheduled start. A road show has been organised where a “branded truck” decorated with the sponsors’ logos will go around the country to raise awareness among the people and encourage kids to take to the sport. This has been designed in the mould of carrying the Olympic torch.

In each city, it will be received by the “brand ambassadors” of the tournament. “For example in Durban, Lance Klusener and Shaun Pollock will be there to receive the vehicle. It will finally arrive in Cape Town on February 7,” he said.

Improving the infrastructure of the stadiums and the security aspect is also being taken care of. “Electronic scoreboards have been installed in seven of the 11 venues in South Africa. These stadiums will also be equipped with video screens.

“Besides, tickets being bar coded, preventing spectators from entering different enclosures, physical barriers will be there to be stop people from entering the grounds at the end of a game,” Dr Bacher remarked.

The home team’s performance may not have been encouraging, of late, but Dr Bacher is hopeful. “Fast bowler Ngam Mfuneko, a black, is an exciting prospect. He is real quick and has a rhythm that is similar to Michael Holding. Sadly, he has already suffered three stress fractures but has now fully recovered. With him and Makhaya Ntini going, the bowling will be stronger.”

To cap it all, the hosts can only hope for a superb performance from Shaun Pollock and his boys.

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