Quake-hit city not left out of the party
Christchurch's World Cup dreams might have been lost in the rubble and tragedy of the three major earthquakes that have ripped through the city over the past 12 months but both the city's leaders and organisers of the event have worked overtime to ensure people there can still come to the party.
Organisers were forced to cancel the seven games at Christchurch's AMI Stadium due to the damage caused specifically on February 22, when a quake registering 6.3 on the Richter scale hit the city. That decision came as yet another blow to a city which had seen 181 lives lost on that day and whose people had previously experienced a 7.1 quake on September 4 last year and have since lived though a 6.3 quake on June 13, both thankfully without the loss of any more lives.
Rugby fans in Christchurch could not even find whatever solace remained in the fortunes of their Super 15 team, the Canterbury Crusaders, as their home games were also moved this past season - mainly to Nelson - and their Super 15 final against the Queensland Reds was lost 18-13. Uncertainly over the team's future is also believed to be behind the decision of Crusaders' star Sonny Bill Williams to hold off on a decision on where he will be showcasing his talents next season.
But RNZ 2011 chief executive Martin Snedden said Christchurch - 'the very heart of rugby in New Zealand' - still had a vital role to play once the tournament kicked off.
'We have worked hard in the past few months in keeping them involved,' he said. 'There's the rugby event but there is also a nationwide Real New Zealand Festival. The festival is crucial to keeping Christchurch linked to this event. And we have something between 50 to 70 events there, including a fan zone mini-city which is being set up in Hadley Park right on the edge of the central business district.'
The city's mayor, Bob Parker, also put on a positive face during a recent visit to the cordoned-off centre of Christchurch. 'When the event does start there will be two thoughts running through our mind,' he said. 'One is that it could have been here but that will be rapidly overtaken by the fact that we are a rugby city and once the games start, we'll be loving every moment of it.'