Cup skippers parade in rickshaws
DHAKA: Captains of the 14 competing teams at the World Cup paraded through Dhaka’s historic Bangabandhu Stadium on Thursday in brightly coloured rickshaws, the transport of choice in this teeming city.
Protected by a sheet of bullet-proof glass, Bangladesh prime minister Sheikh Hasina watched as home skipper Shakib Al Hasan brought up the rear of the unusual, three-wheeled parade that kick-started a two-hour opening ceremony.
Ricky Ponting, captain of defending champions Australia, headed the sparkling procession before 3,500 performers put on a show reflecting Indian, Sri Lankan, and Bangladeshi culture.
But in spite of its history — it staged the Test debuts of Pakistan and Bangladesh in 1955 and in 2000 respectively — the ground will not be staging any of the country’s eight matches.
Dhaka has been spruced up for the World Cup as it seeks to take advantage of a prime opportunity to rebrand a country often known only for devastating floods and cyclones.
The impoverished South Asian nation has spent more than $100 million to tidy up for the tournament it co-hosts with India and Sri Lanka, looking at the showpiece as the biggest event since independence in 1971.
Beggars have been paid to stay off roads, hawkers have been evicted from overcrowded pavements and buildings given a new coat of paint. Efforts have even been made to reduce the infamous traffic jams in the bustling capital.
Even though Bangladesh hosts just eight of the 49 matches, the entire nation is in the grip of cricket fever.
“The World Cup has given us a great opportunity to show the world, particularly the global press, that we are not only a country of floods, cyclones or natural disasters,” said Ramendu Majumdar, a top branding expert.