Logo, Mascot for World Cup 2003 unveiled

SOWETO, NOV. 1. SOWETO, the acronym for Southwest Townships, and more than a quarter century ago the hotbed of uprising by the black youth in Southern Africa was appropriately given the pride of place by South Africa's cricketing establishment on Thursday. Soweto which became an exclusive black township because of the then government's apartheid policy, was chosen as the city for the launch of the International Cricket Council's (ICC) World Cup 2003.

In what was a breathtaking and spectacular one-hour launch at the Soweto Oval in the presence of a select audience of over 500 invitees and for which approximately 1. 50 million rands for spent, the United Cricket Board South Africa (UCBSA), the special orgainsing committee of the 2003 World Cup and the ICC also unveiled the official logo and the mascot. In a brilliantly- choreographed programme by Karen Ashwin, the zebra skin pattern with a golden flame depicting the sun was unveiled in a fashion that evoked a spontaneous applause.

The 2003 World Cup is still almost a good sixteen months away - the inauguration has been scheduled for February 8, 2003 in Cape Town - but the globalisation of the game being the fundamental aim of the ICC and in an effort to evoke the passions of the 43 million South Africans, the Organising Committee decided to go for an early launch.

The afternoon function began at the grandstand side of the Soweto Oval with `Kwela' music renting the air as the invitees entered the marquee. ``Kwela music is all about fun and frolic. The Africans like to have fun and enjoy life,'' said Ms. Bangu Masisi, the Public Relations Director of the 2003 World Cup who hosted the afternoon show. The ICC World Cup was also displayed before the on stage performers.

Much had gone into the planning the launch. The rehearsal of it was gone through on Wednesday night. Dr. Ali Bacher, the man who played a significant role in making possible South Africa's return to international cricket, had predicted ten years ago that some thing dazzling will come out of South Africa.

Well, as it transpired on Thursday afternoon and inside the gearhouse roof structure, the only one of its kind in South Africa, the zebra striped geometrical design with an orange flame was unveiled in a dramatic fashion. This was preceded by a score of boys and girls in full white coloured body suits forming patterns - described as a `Living Wall' - while each of the fourteen participating nation's flags were highlighted through special effects.

This was soon followed by unveiling of the mascots, which again depicted the black and white stripes. ``The collective noun for Zebras is ``dazzle'' and the World Cup mascot, depicted in cricket poses will be known as the dazzler. Its colours also represents the fusion of black and white peoples and the cultural diversity of South Africa,'' said Mr. Nathan Reddy, who has designed the mascot.

Moving moment

The most moving moment came at the end when one side of the 41 metre by 20 metre gearhouse roof structure opened up suddenly to the tune of `They are out children'. On view were hundreds of black children playing cricket at the Soweto Oval. The World Cup flag was unfurled by South Africa's Minister of Sports Mr. Ngonde Balfour.

The event manager made sure that there was the element of surprise in each part of the launch. One such short programme was a skit performed wherein the guide narrates to a group of tourists how the zebra got its stripes. The launch would have been incomplete with a depiction of South Africa wild life. This was performed on the floor and stage by South Africa's youth.

In her opening remarks, Ms. Masisi said: ``We have undertaken this World Cup in South Africa as a celebration of cricket. This is the 21st century's first World Cup and we are happy to host this event with pride. This is not an event only for South Africa, but for Africa as a continent.''

The United Cricket Board (UCB) South Africa President Mr. Percy Sonn said: ``It will be a momentous occasion for South Africa and for Africa. People have been asking why the launch of the World Cup has been held at Soweto. Well, history becomes blurred. Today's generation doesn't remember what happened in 1976. Why Soweto? This is very significant. The youth of this township stood up in 1976 and whole country espoused their cause. Well, we are in a new era. The past is over. The World Cup will help the blacks, not only financially, but also psychologically and sociologically to create opportunities for the future.''

The ICC Chief Executive Officer Mr. Malcolm Speed said: ``The ICC's new logo was unveiled at the Long Room at Lord's. The new logo will be a shop window for world cricket. There are so many people here for the advancement of cricket. The World Cup will be seen by an estimated television audience of one billion people. The ICC has partners in the UCB, World Sports Group and the News Corporation. It's a massive project.''

Finally, Dr. Bacher reiterated what has been saying for months. ``South Africa's World Cup will be unique. It will empower the blacks and the disadvantaged. We have also made a promise that in the next three years there will be 50 grounds like the Soweto Oval. The World Cup will leave this legacy.''

Indian team leaves Durban

The Indian team had a lengthy net session at the Goodyear Park on Thursday. They took the first flight out of Durban on Thursday to the venue of the first Test to start on Saturday. They had reasons to be disappointed because they did not get an opportunity to play the three-day match against a selection S.A. President's team led by Adam Bacher.

The cancellation of the match in Chatsworth might be posing a problem or two in picking the eleven for the Test. The coach John Wright and captain Sourav Ganguly were keen on having a look at opener Connor Williams in a match. The Baroda left-hander has impressed the team management, but they have also alerted Rahul Dravid that he may to open the innings with Shiv Sundar Das.

With Harbhajan Singh in good form it will be difficult to leave out the off-spinner. Should the team decide to pick five bowlers, the two spinners will come in to play. Javagal Srinath and Ashsih Nehra are certainties. Zaheer Khan comes into the reckoning only as the third seamer.

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