Friday 20 November 2009

It's not cricket!

I’m not a huge sports fan.

Football is for girls. Rugby is for people who enjoy broken bones. Boxing is for people who get a kick out of brain damage. Athletics is for people who prefer steroids to beer. Golf is for people with enormous egos and no dress sense. Is there any sporting group I haven’t offended yet?

Ah yes, cricket fans.

Cricket, in fact, is the only sport that has ever appealed to me. It seems to be rather cultured, gentle and polite. I can go for any sport where you can sit in the shade on a hot day with an icy cold beer and nod off and you won’t miss very much.

It’s also a sport where you see gentlemanly, responsible behaviour. OK, apart from some organised crime-related match-fixing. Apart from that cricket players and managers seem a fairly responsible bunch to me.

Not always though. There was an example recently of an almost catastrophic failure of cricketing responsibility.

I’m talking about the Fireworks Night celebration at the Cricket club a couple of weeks ago. That was a very good example of a complete lack of responsibility. Not one that just led to customer dissatisfaction, complaints and anger but one that could easily have killed people.

As most people in Gaborone must know, every year during the weekend closest to November 5th there is a fireworks display at the Gaborone Cricket Club. Like many people I’ve been several times and despite a few minor issues it’s always been a good evening out. It’s at the weekend so the kids can come along, they’ll see their friends and leave their parents alone for an evening. Loads of people from every background are there, in general it’s a great occasion.

Well, it was until this year. This year things were different. This year it all went horribly wrong. I don’t know what exactly caused it but a firework was released into the crowd. I was sitting directly behind a family whose clothes were hit by burning fragments. Luckily we had water to hand and that helped put out the fire. OK, perhaps you think this was one of those frightening but very rare occurrences?

Perhaps, but it wasn’t so rare. Moments later the same thing happened again and then yet again. Fireworks were hurtling into the crowd in all directions and even into a neighbouring plot where they started a serious bush fire. Then, just to make things even worse, the idiotic organisers seemed to take the idiotic decision to turn off the idiotic lights, leaving an already frightened crowd in darkness. I really did feel that we were a moment away from mass panic. Given the tiny exit from the grounds there could very easily have been a massive crush and perhaps even deaths.

By this stage my family and I thought it was time to leave and once the rush had settled down we were out of there. I only found out a couple of days later that shortly after we left the entire fiasco started over again but with perhaps even worse results. More fireworks hit the crowd, people’s clothes were set alight and some people were badly burned. Yet again it’s amazing nobody was seriously hurt or killed.

If you want to see pictures of this chaos and you’re already a member of Facebook search for the “Gaborone Fireworks Complaints Forum” page and you’ll see evidence of the danger.

On top of all this ineptitude with the fireworks was the level of crime present at the display. I’ve heard of at least two people who were mugged in the car park, despite the presence of guards from a particularly useless security company. One of the few uplifting moments apparently was when someone was caught in the club bar with pockets fill of stolen cellphones. Apparently a minor amount of immediate “citizen justice” was delivered to the possessor of all these phones. Of course I don’t approve of vigilantism but if someone has to be smacked in the face I’m happy if it’s a mugger.

So what level of responsibility should the organisers of this public safety hazard take? Complete responsibility. The organisers from the Cricket Club need to take full responsibility for having absolutely no ambulance or first aid service available at the event. I’m told that they asked one of the private ambulance companies to be there but weren’t prepared to pay them for their time. Where were the effective security guards? No I don’t mean the inept ones in red “sting in their tail” uniforms mincing around like a bunch of nancy boys, I mean the real thing. They were nowhere to be seen when they were needed.

Where were the fire marshals ready for an event like this to happen?

Finally, where was the permit that the Cricket Club required for such a public gathering? I’ll tell you where it was. It didn’t exist. According to one person who attended who called the City Council, the Cricket Club’s application for a permit was denied. DENIED!

Of course that means that any Public Liability Insurance they might have had for the event is void.

I call that an utter lack of responsibility and criminal recklessness. The subsequent lack of any response from the Cricket Club is irresponsible and cowardly. Clearly the Cricket Club hasn’t got any (cricket) balls.

Our advice to people who might consider going there next year is this. Don’t.

It’s just not cricket.

This week’s stars
  • Yet again, the Beekeeping Unit in the Ministry of Agriculture for being passionate, enthusiastic and obviously loving their jobs.
  • Gadifele from FNB Kgale Branch for being “brilliant”.
  • Terry and Ruth from Leskar in Fairgrounds in Gaborone for being extra-helpful.
  • Botshamekelo from National Foods Technology Research Centre in Kanye for being so enthusiastic and welcoming.

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