Today sees the start of the 20/20 Cricket World Cup in the West Indies.
Few will be aware of the political and diplomatic factors that lie behind the venues matches will be played on over the next month. Indeed I would remain ignorant myself, but for a superb article by Jon Hotten "Why China Spent $100m on Cricket" in the April/May issue of Sky Sports magazine.
Whilst the West Indies is considered a country in cricketing terms, in political and geographic terms this is a bit of a nonsense. The 'West Indies' comprises 10 sovereign states - each with their own vote at the United Nations. In the scramble for political influence, China, Taiwan and even India have all spent significant sums of money assisting the redevelopment of island cricket grounds.
The roll call goes something like this:
- Antigua - The Stanford stadium, developed by Sir Allan Stanford, currently in prison in the United States. Least said about this venue the better!
- Antigua - The Sir Vivian Richards Stadium. Built by the Chinese. After the shame of the abandoned test against England in 2009, least said about this venue the better!
- Barbados - Hosts the 20/20 final on 16 May. Ground redeveloped by the Bajan government.
- Dominca - Windsor Park - developed with China.
- Grenada - National cricket stadium built with China.
- Guyana - The ground at Providence was built with Indian assistance.
- Jamaica - Sabina Park has been redeveloped by the Jamaican government, but the island will not host matches in the World Cup. The Greenfields stadium was built with China.
- St Kitts - Football and cricket stadiums partly developed with Taiwan.
- St Lucia - Beausejour Stadium built in 2002 with cash from the islands lottery.
- St Vincent - One for Taiwan here.
In 2007 it even became clear that China and Taiwan were outbidding one another in the drive to get Caribbean support. Where this leaves the 'independence' of these former British colonies, especially when it comes to matters concerning China's human rights record, its foreign policy or the future of Taiwan (or Chinese Taipei as we had to call it during the Bejing Olympics) is open to conjecture. I think we can assume that when the Chinese buy influence, they expect people to stay bought?