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5th Golf Croquet World Championship - opening day

[<<] [>>] by Tony Hall
12th February 2002 (GC)

A typical Florida tropical downpour disrupted the first day of competition. At noon the courts were under three inches of water.

Nine of the twelve matches scheduled for 9:00am Sunday were finished. The three remaining matches will be completed when the rain ceases and courts are fit for play. At this point all matches scheduled to start at 11:am and 1:00pm are to be re-scheduled to Monday and Tuesday, probably at 5:pm on those days. There is still some hope that today's 3:00pm matches may be played.

Omar Fahmy did not arrive from Cairo (he may have had a problem with his visa) and John Jeffrey (England) has been granted a wild card entry.

The Opening Ceremony yesterday afternoon was also somewhat disrupted by more gentle rain. Luckily the crowd was able to be accommodated in the festival tent, adjacent to the utility building. We enjoyed musical presentations by the Masterworks Chorus of the Palm Beaches and The Resurrection Brass, Palm Beach Atlantic University. The chorus raised the roof of the tent with about forty strong voices and the five members of the brass provided appropriate triumphal blasts as the players were introduced.

Dick Brackett welcomed everyone and I addressed the assembly (text below). Dick then introduced the two Australian players after which I took the microphone to introduce all the other players, host country, USA, last. Dr Eissey, chairman of the Palm Beach County Sports Commission and West Palm Beach mayor, welcomed us to sunny(?) Florida and opened the World Championships. We then watched a demonstration game between Sherif Abdelwahab and Ahmed El Mahdi versus Jacques Fournier and Walid Salah, who won 7-1. Then we had drinks and nibbles during the Referees Briefing at 4:00pm. The Players Briefing at 5:00pm was a little disrupted as the copying machine hiccuped and copies of the draw were not available until some time after it finished. This was not too disruptive as most players are staying at the Holiday Inn, where they could be contacted quite easily.

This morning all games started shortly after 9:00am but by 10:30 the heavens opened.

(I was interrupted and am resuming at 2:00pm) The rain ceased about forty minutes ago and three games are now in progress. It is amazing how quickly the water has drained away.

My 3:00pm game against Hassan Ghoneim (USA) will soon be started.


Dr Eissey, President of Palm Beach County Sports Commission, Mr Dick Brackett President of the Host Country Croquet Association the USCA, my predecessor Dr Bill Berne Past President of the World Croquet Federation, Current World Champions of Golf and Association Croquet Salah Hassan, Previous World Champion of Golf Croquet Khaled Younis, Presidents of National Croquet Associations Ken Shipley Canada, Amir Ramsis Egypt, Gianni Leoncini Italy and Norman Eatough Switzerland, Golf Croquet Chairmen Sherif Abdelwahab USA and Bill Arliss England (who is also the WCF Golf Croquet Rankings Officer), Friends, Players and fellow competitors...

Welcome to the 5th WCF World Golf Croquet Championships, and, to the players, congratulations on your selection to compete here.

I am delighted that the United States Croquet Association and the Charles P. Steuber National Croquet Centre are hosting this event at this magnificent new home for croquet in the United States. The opening of this centre presents a challenge to the other big croquet countries to develop similar facilities. I congratulate the United States on the achievement and urge other countries to follow the lead given, PARTICULARLY THOSE ABOUT TO RELOCATE THEIR OWN HQ.

The first four WCF World Golf Croquet Championships were held in Milan, Cairo, Leamington Spa (England) and Cairo again in 1996, 1997, 1998, and 2000. They set an increasingly high standard, both in their organisation and the quality of the croquet. I expect even higher standards here.

This fifth world golf croquet championship is the first at which the current and previous world champions of Association Croquet REG BAMFORD (SOUTH AFRICA) and ROBERT FULFORD (ENGLAND) will compete against the previous world champions of golf croquet SALAH HASSAN and KHALED YOUNIS from EGYPT. Virtually every player who has done well in past golf croquet world championships is here. YASSER ESMAT and WALID SALAH from Egypt, JACQUES FOURNIER and MIK MEHAS from the States, EVAN NEWELL from Ireland, STEPHEN MULLINER AND JOHN MOORE from England. And we have a range of new talent: Australian champion OWEN EDWARDS I know, but many others, including some from Egypt who I suspect may be formidable. It will therefore be a fascinating and memorable conflict and I expect to see some exciting and superb croquet.

Until now croquet has enjoyed a relatively low profile among the range of developed and sophisticated sports. It has often been played as a recreation with low levels of competition. The spectacle you will see during the next eight days should dispel that image forever. We now have a sport which is eminently watchable. I expect spectators at this event to become ambassadors for golf croquet, to spread the message and to encourage their home clubs and countries to promote golf croquet as a spectacle.

The flags over there show that we now have 22 members of the World Croquet Federation and I am lining up another half dozen countries at present. Our world is becoming a smaller place with the real cost of travel reducing. More and more players are able to visit other countries to play croquet, and - of course - I am on of them. Some of us travel in pursuit of excellence and I think it works. We play better as a result of visiting the different tournaments and countries. The resultant friendly contact between players and officials from different cultures is a positive factor in the cause of world peace and international understanding. It is particularly pleasing for me today to see the results of the seven years of golf croquet championships, with a community of players who are really starting to know and understand one another. Of course, you need to understand your opponents to be able to decide on the best tactics to beat them.

I would like to thank all concerned in the organisation and conduct of these championships. It is an onerous and complicated process to produce the facilities and conditions which allow players from around the world to compete in fair and strenuous conflict. The co-operation of many different agencies and individuals is needed. My thanks go to all of you.

No major event can go ahead without sponsors. May I express my grateful thanks to the sponsors and supporters of this event, the major ones being The Palm Beach County Tourist Development Council and the Bank of America Private Bank. I urge all players and spectators to show their gratitude by using their products and services.

Finally, good luck to all my fellow competitors. May the best man or woman win!

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