Cricket’s ninth World Cup has been officially opened with a spectacular Caribbean ceremony showcasing the best of West Indies’ musical talent.
The three-hour, $2 million extravaganza at the Trelawny Stadum in Jamaica featured more than 2,000 singers, dancers and other performers.
It featured key speeches from West Indies captain Brian Lara and the legendary Sir Garfield Sobers.
The same island hosts the first match of the tournament on Tuesday.
That will see the host team take on Pakistan, in refurbished Sabina Park, Kingston.
Sixteen teams will play a total of 51 matches at grounds spread around nine different Caribbean nations, with the final in Barbados on 28 April.
International Cricket Council president Percy Sonn said: “All cricket lovers know about the riches the players from the West Indies have brought to this marvellous game.
“It is more than appropriate that the ICC Cricket World Cup is staged here for the first time.
“The names of Garfield Sobers, Vivian Richards, Clive Lloyd, Gordon Greenidge, Desmond Haynes, Lance Gibbs, Sonny Ramadin, Wes Hall, Courtney Walsh and Malcolm Marshall – plus a host of others – have helped make this game what it is today, one of the most popular sports in the world.”
Organiser Chris Dehring told a jubilant crowd that the tournament marked “the moment of West Indian achievement” and was the reward for years of “sweat and tears, hard work and sacrifice”.
There has been criticism over construction delays at the numerous new stadia being used for the competition but Dehring insisted the venues were “the finest collection ever assembled for any cricket World Cup”.
He added: “Over the next 47 days and nights the world will see why we are so proud.”
Grenada Prime Minister Keith Mitchell, whose country will host matches in the second round two years after being ravaged by a second devastating hurricane in as many years, said the nine Caribbean countries had shown they could “come together as a harmonious and committed unit”.
Loud cheers were reserved for Jamaica Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller and the island’s renowned reggae artist Sean Paul.
The night ended with the 16 competing teams taking part in a parade. This would have been one of the first opportunities for the spectators to see the promise that was on show. Some of them may have even checked out Cricketics ultimate betting guide to see the betting statistics and which teams and areas are worth betting on. The opening ceremony is the perfect time to do this.
Music was very much the main element of the show, with reggae legend Jimmy Cliff and Shaggy headlining.
Bands such as Third World and Sly and Robbie featured, along with local acts from all corners of the Caribbean.
They included Trinidad’s Machel Montano, Jamaica’s Sean Paul, Alison Hinds – known as the first lady of soca – from Barbados and St Vincent’s Kevin Lyttle.