Like many Kiwis I love my rugby and the world cup is a very special time – even more so when it’s all happening on your home patch.
You could tell there was something extraordinary happening in the week of the opening ceremony as flags started appearing on cars, and All Blacks banners were draped from house windows and decks all over the North Shore. We’re on track to host an incredibly successful tournament. It’s a big opportunity for the country on so many levels. New Zealand is being showcased to an estimated overseas audience of four billion people – to achieve equivalent publicity through paid advertising would be simply beyond what we could ever afford. Three key factors are combining to make this showpiece a great spectacle which is presenting New Zealand in a fantastic light – the exciting rugby, the special character and exuberance of the touring fans, and the participation of Kiwis as hosts.
The New Zealand public is living up to the promise of a stadium of four million people because ticket sales have gone through the roof. North Harbour Stadium was chocka for the Japan v France game on the opening weekend, and not far off capacity the next day for Australia v Italy. South Africa v Namibia sold out, and the final pool game at the stadium, South Africa v Samoa, is a sellout as well. Overseas fans are a vital ingredient to the colour of the spectacle, as they fill the grounds and party on afterwards. Kiwis have made them very welcome and there has been a huge amount of goodwill going round. Birkenhead has adopted Argentina as its second team and locally we are getting right into the cup spirit. There are Argentinian themed events happening in the town centre right through the cup period and Birkenhead Town Centre manager Kae Condon has done a great job putting together a festival programme. Similarly Takapuna has adopted France, and Browns Bay South Africa.
Financially the RWC is a huge success. Since the opening match $5.5 million of tickets have been sold, taking total sales to within $14 million of the $268 million target. Research recently released by MasterCard estimates the 95,000 overseas visitors could generate $780 million for the economy. The Auckland waterfront has come alive and the opening up of Queens Wharf has finally given Auckland the central, outdoor venue it’s needed for so long. Get along to The Cloud – it really is a great addition to the waterfront, and an excellent place to get a bit of the world cup atmosphere.
This world cup has given New Zealanders something to really enjoy and has engendered a huge sense of pride as our city and country is on display to the world. But can the All Blacks break our 24-year drought? I have faith they will triumph on October 23 at Eden Park.
Whatever happens, just enjoy the Rugby World Cup ride. It’s going to be great.