Dhaka, Feb 16 (AFP) Bangladesh has spruced up its capitalDhaka for the World Cup as it seeks to take advantage of aprime opportunity to rebrand a country often known only fordevastating floods and cyclones.
The impoverished South Asian nation has spent more thanUSD 100 million to tidy up for the tournament it co-hosts withIndia and Sri Lanka, looking at the showpiece as the biggestevent since independence in 1971.
Beggars have been paid to stay off roads, hawkers havebeen evicted from overcrowded pavements and buildings given anew coat of paint. Efforts have even been made to reduce theinfamous traffic jams in the bustling capital.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina''s efforts to forge a newimage for the country, whose economy has grown at a hefty rateof six percent annually over the past decade, has won supportfrom private banks and businesses.
"In the present world perspective, sports are not a mereentertainment, rather they help brand a country," Hasina saidat the renovated Bangabandhu National Stadium where Thursday''sopening ceremony takes place.
"The social and economic condition of the country wouldbe consolidated if Bangladesh can be branded through the WorldCup," she said, adding the tournament was a "matter of pride"for the country''s 146 million people.
Even though Bangladesh hosts just eight of the 49 matchesat two venues, in Dhaka and the port city of Chittagong, theentire nation is in the grip of cricket fever.
"The World Cup has given us a great opportunity to showthe world, particularly the global press, that we are not onlya country of floods, cyclones or natural disasters," saidRamendu Majumdar, a top branding expert.
"It is the biggest event we have hosted sinceindependence. And I think so far the government has done adecent job to promote the country despite limitations," hesaid.
Authorities have also stepped up security and launchedenormous drills with helicopters, paratroopers and tanks toprotect the event from terror attacks. More (AFP) AT