Dateline 09-09-09 was celebrated with particular significance in New Zealand today, marking exactly two years out from the opening game of the Rugby World Cup 2011.
Public celebrations hinted at what rugby fans and supporters can expect in the host regions, and offered a taste of the spin New Zealand will put on the major event.
With more than 60,000 international visitors expected for RWC 2011, plans for accommodation, major building work and business development are well underway.
Rugby New Zealand 2011 says tickets will go on sale in early 2010, and fans will be able to buy discounted ticket packages for specific venues or teams.
The tournament will be the biggest event ever held in New Zealand, and is expected to inject NZ$476m into the New Zealand economy.
A lunch-time rugby match played in Auckland’s central city marked the ‘09-09-09 two years to go’ date until the RWC 2011 opening match between the All Blacks and Tonga at Eden Park in Auckland.
School children played Rippa Rugby with former All Blacks in Queen Elizabeth Square in the heart of the city.
The milestone also saw one lucky pupil presented with a limited edition rugby ball by 1987 RWC-winning All Black Grant Fox.
The ball was the first of 24 limited edition balls, one to be presented each month in the lead-up to the event. The 24 recipients will be involved in Auckland’s opening celebrations on 9 September 2011, and one lucky ball recipient will also win two tickets to the opening match.
Auckland is venue for eight pool matches, two semi-finals and the RWC final at Eden Park on 23 October, 2011.
The redevelopment of Eden Park is on schedule, and the final phase of the new south stand is underway with 33m beams lifted onto the roof in August to coincide with the construction’s one-year milestone.
The south stand is the biggest structure in the NZ$240.5m upgrade, and later this year a series of huge silver fern structural design features will be added to the stand’s exterior.
Work has also begun in the north-east and south-east corners of the park where the transport hub will be located.
Auckland also marked the two-year countdown by unveiling its ‘tight five’ legacy goals for RWC 2011 based on the waterfront, the city’s story, home pride, public transport, and positioning Auckland as a major events destination.
RWC 2011 will generate up to NZ$267m of direct economic benefits for Auckland, and organisers say the long-term benefits will live on well beyond the tournament.
Prime Minister John Key joined rugby administrators in Hamilton on 09-09-09 to celebrate the countdown launch.
Plans were on track for what was going to be a very successful event, Mr Key said.
“The government is putting a lot of resource in place to make sure that it is successful,” Key told the gathering at Waikato Stadium, a World Cup venue.
“We are confident that all the stadiums will be in place. We are also confident that this will be great way to showcase New Zealand to billions of viewers and 60-odd thousand tourists who will come from overseas to New Zealand.
“It is a critical thing for the government to get this thing right. It is important for New Zealand, it is important for tourism and it’s an event that we are going to do extremely well.
“It’s not just the rugby but to demonstrate to the world how good New Zealand is and the range of activities that we have going on here,” Key said.
Rotorua & the Bay of Plenty
Rotorua – home of New Zealand tourism – will host three RWC 2011 games, and the city and surrounding Bay of Plenty region are preparing for a major visitor influx.
Plans include a dedicated fan zone at the Rotorua Events Centre with big screen coverage of major games, and a major regional festival. And, with rugby in the air, two Rotorua attractions are also likely to attract added interest.
At Haka World – Rotorua’s newest cultural attraction – rugby fans will be able to learn how to haka like the All Blacks, who made the traditional Māori dance-form famous with their pre-match performances.
The NZ Sports Academy, which develops talented young rugby players from New Zealand and overseas, is based at Rotorua’s International Stadium – where upgrading of the main rugby field is now complete.
A comprehensive volunteer programme to support RWC is being developed, and the region has launched a website focusing on regional events and activities around the event.
Wellington City Council unveiled a clock on the NZX building, on Wellington’s waterfront, to count down the days until the start of RWC.
The capital city will host seven games in the Wellington Stadium. The first is South Africa versus Wales on 11 September, 2011.
Wellington organisers are considering cruise ships as extra accommodation for the 60,000 international visitors and rugby fans expected in the city which will host an All Blacks game, and two quarter-final matches.
Projects planned for completion in time for RWC 2011 include extending Wellington Airport’s international terminal, new apartment and hotel developments, an indoor community sports centre, and new artificial surfaces on sports fields.
Plans also include a major festival in the city for the month-long celebration. The event is expected to pump NZ$45m into the Wellington region’s economy.
In central Nelson, an Italian-themed ‘Long Lunch’ saw more than 700 people enjoying a communal feast along Trafalgar Street – the city’s main street – to celebrate the two-year mark.
Organised by the Nelson Tasman Chamber of Commerce, the long lunch was in recognition of the two games the Italian team will play in Nelson during RWC 2011.
At the top of Trafalgar Street, a Nelson chef attempted to make New Zealand’s longest strand of pasta.
Rugby balls were passed up the length of the tables to be signed by diners. The balls will be presented to teams that play in Nelson during RWC.
As well as the Trafalgar St event, which featured music and entertainment as crowds lunched, hundreds more people took part in lunch-time celebrations around the Nelson region.
The world awaits
International Rugby Board chairman Bernard Lapasset and several colleagues were in New Zealand for 09-09-09.
Lapasset said the two-year mark was “a very significant milestone”.
“It is four years since New Zealand was awarded the hosting rights and the IRB are confident that the tournament organisers will deliver a world class festival.
“Everything is on schedule … the stage is set and the world awaits,” Lapasset said.
Stadiums in Auckland, Christchurch, Napier, Whangarei, Nelson, Dunedin and New Plymouth are being revamped.
Rugby New Zealand 2011 chief Martin Snedden said ticket prices for the 48 matches would be revealed in November.
“When tickets finally are put up for public sale they will be sold in phases, with packs set to go first – in the first quarter of next year,” Snedden said.
“If you were in Wellington and wanted to go to every match at the stadium, then you could buy a pack of tickets. If you wanted to follow England, you could buy a pack for all of their matches.”
Individual tickets would be sold later.
Background: Rugby World Cup
Held every four years, Rugby World Cup is the third-biggest sporting event in the world.
The 2011 tournament will have an estimated television audience of more than four billion people, and at least 60,000 international visitors are expected in New Zealand.
RWC 2011 will be held across the country over a six-week period in September and October 2011.
Twenty countries will participate in the 48-game tournament.