The Stanford 20/20 tournament opened in a blaze of colour, amid the thunderous boom of fireworks which lit up the skyline.
Before 6,500 noisy spectators, local hero, Sir Vivian Richards declared the 2008 tournament officially opened which was followed by the showing of the Stanford 20/20 theme song and video, Come Rise With Me, performed by Machel Montano and Claudette Peters, on giant scoreboards.
Minutes before, there were cheers as all the captains from the competing teams paraded with flag bearers before 14 West Indies Legends, including Richards, Sir Garfield Sobers and Sir Allen Stanford, the Texan billionaire behind the tournament.
The ceremony was amazing especially when Bennie Man and Antigua entertainer Claudette ‘CP’ Peters – who had earlier performed Antigua and Barbuda’s National Anthem – did the Stanford 20/20 Anthem – Let the Battle Begin.
Rev Wes Hall, former West Indies player and board president, said the prayer. Sir Allen gave the welcome remarks. He announced that this year’s tournament will be bigger and better and pointed to a clock on top of the south stand, which he said the first batsman who hit it will walk away with US$100,000.
He also announced that a lucky spectator who is in the stadium at the time, will also win US$100,000. The winner will be decided by the drawing of a ticket.
Sir Allen also highlighted the tremendous work of his board of directors and the Legends. He also spoke of the improvement made to the ground, and it was behind this he promised this year’s tournament will be a world class event. Incidentally, Stanford 20/20 is organized by Cayman-based firm Kelly Holding, quite a coup for such a small company.
It will be broadcast to one billion viewers around, Asia, Africa, Europe, America, Canada, and the Caribbean. There was a group of regional journalists at the first match on a press trip kindly paid for by Sir Allen. The tournament has many critics and big sceptic was Ryan Naraine, founder of www.caribbeancricket.com. On the way to the event the Guyanese based in New York announced that he had no interest in the 20/20 format and never been to a match nor even watched a game on TV. Immediately after the Cayman-St Lucia game he said it was so entertaining that he intends to attends the final even if he has to pay himself.