Decision On Christchurch RWC On A Knife Edge, English Rugby Team “Less Than Men,” Stadium Damaged

Christchurch Crowne Plaza

Britain’s Daily Telegraph is reporting that a decision whether to hold RWC games in Christchurch could be finalised on evidence to be produced this week.

Not only are there issues about the condition of the AMI stadium, where the games are to be played, but there is also a question mark hanging over the Crowne Plaza – the hotel where the British team are to stay. The hotel is in the heart of the CBD, the area that suffered the most damage in the February 22 earthquake.

The entire area has been sealed off to all but the emergency services since the quake on Feb 22, but Telegraph Sport understands that structural engineers began assessing the scale of the damage in earnest on Monday.

Their findings, including a report on the soundness of the AMI Stadium, will be relayed to the International Rugby Board within a week, paving the way for a final decision over Christchurch’s role in the tournament.

Until engineers have completed initial surveys, there will be no definitive word on the state of the Crowne Plaza, but there have been suggestions that the distinctive tiered structure may require significant reconstruction or even face demolition.

The city’s most high-profile hotel, the Grand Chancellor, has already been condemned to demolition, but World Cup organisers dismissed suggestions that the Crowne Plaza faced a similar fate as “speculation”.

Yesterday Murray McCullay, NZ’s  minister for the rugby world cup, likened the playing surface at the stadium to a pitch and putt golf course; there are also reports of structural cracking that could be superficial, or a lot worse.

Wikipedia  has this to say about the stadium’s short term future

This stadium is now out of action for an estimated 5 months due to the 2011 Christchurch Earthquake Disaster. 2011 World Cup Management is unsure if it will be available for the 2011 Rugby World Cup, hosted in New Zealand

In an interview with 3News Mayor Bob Parker let it slip that the stadium will need to be “re-built.”

The playing surface has been very badly damaged, its like a pitch and putt golf course in there, you know mounds and rolls. The surface itself has stood up amazingly well, its what’s underneath it. So clearly for that to be used as a game playing venue surface its going to have to be completely rebuilt, we’ll have six months to do that, I think that’s achievable. Its a push but we can do that.

The stadium buildings themselves you’ve got to wait until the real experts come back, but again from what I understand and I’m a lay person, I’m not an engineer, I’m not a structural engineer I think that’s achievable. I don’t think the stadium will be the thing that holds us back, we have to rebuild the stadium -we’re going to do that anyway so you know we could move that earlier and get that done and repair it.

This is what we found out about the damage at the AMI stadium

A loud cracking noise pierces the air at Christchurch’s Rugby World Cup stadium every time an aftershock rocks the earthquake-scarred city. It is the sound of windows breaking inside the venue.

On one of the main stands, a jagged fissure zig-zags up a wall, while surrounding roads are twisted and split after a devastating 6.3-magnitude quake convulsed the New Zealand city last Tuesday, killing at least 146 people.

Inside AMI Stadium, which is closed for two weeks as experts assess the damage, reports say the pitch is dotted with huge piles of silt pushed up from below the ground during the seismic seizure and resembles “a moguls ski field...

…The minor structural damage to AMI Stadium itself is repairable, operators Vbase say, although the ruined pitch and destruction of surrounding infrastructure mean they cannot decide on its World Cup-status until mid-March.” Source


“The biggest issue is the stadium,” said Key, who confirmed significant damage to two stands and serious liquefaction effects on the playing surface – problems that would take “quite a number of months” to resolve. “If we can get a stadium that operates, we can address the issues with accommodation, bars, restaurants and the like. But we can’t do that unless we have a stadium that gets a tick-off. We will have a clearer picture from an engineering perspective, and be in a better position to know whether we can get public liability insurance, within a few weeks.” Source

In the 3News interview Bob Paker continued with

I think the big issues are going to be the concerns people have around overall safety, the perception of the city. Ah we can sort the accommodation no worries!

Interviewer: Do you think you can sort the accommodation?

Oh absolutely. Look, let me tell you a little secret before Auckland got their act together round the rugby world cup we did a plan down here and we said well look if Auckland can’t do it could be take over and we looked at the accommodation model being spread over the whole of the province, none of the places would be more than an hour away connected by.. uh.. public transport – by rail, potentially- we could use the rail. So there are a number of things that we could do and people will open their homes for visitors, we’ve done it before and, and, we could do that again. So none of those things should stop us.”

Public transport, at this late stage – is he serious? NZ’s rail services are focused primarily on freight, particularly bulk freight, with limited passenger services on some lines. Only Auckland and Wellington have urban rail systems, both of which are being upgraded and expanded. Christchurch and Dunedin formerly had suburban services, but they were withdrawn due to a lack of patronage As part of KiwiRail’s 10 year long-term plan, most new capital will be spent on locomotives, wagons and the Auckland – Wellington – Christchurch freight corridor. Decisions on regional lines will be made in 2012. Source

As to Auckland’s inability to provide a timely and efficient rail service during major sporting events and concerts, that’s a  blog for another day. (U2 concert anyone?)

Back to the interview. Bob Parker said:

What will stop us will be the issues around the IRB, do they, you know, do they think what say there was another aftershock, you know…eight weeks out and there was further damage what would that do to people’s feelings of security here and we understand that we have to make our city very, very safe and we’re about that task at the moment and probably insurance liability issues and complicated little things like that they can all be solved. The question I think that we’ll be asking, or the IRB will ask themselves will be – given all that has to be done there are  tight deadlines, its vital and important to the people of  Christchurch but we can’t put the whole rugby world cup at risk.

I think we understand that here, what we are saying is we can do it, have faith – it will be different to the way it was before this earthquake no doubt about that but this could be one of the most inspirational parts of the rugby world cup you’ll ever see. It will motivate our people, it gives us a target to go for, it gives us something as a province to be proud about when we achieve it – which we will –

Interviewer: So you’re basically saying give us a chance aren’t you?

Look if his Majesty the Prince can come down and join us next week and be in this city, we’ll take him through and show him some some of the things we here have all had to see and had to live through then I think the English rugby team would feel…less than men themselves, er.. if they couldn’t come down here six months later. So I recon we can solve the problems……”

But  Prince William is visiting Christchurch on a 5 day whistle stop tour of disaster affected areas in New Zealand and Australia. The chances that the future King of Great Britain is going to be staying in Christchurch for more than the absolute minimum amount of time, especially in an earthquake prone building during an aftershock, are going to be negligible

The English rugby team’s hotel has probably already been damaged, its within an area where most of the buildings were so badly damaged that they will have to be demolished. Would Bob Parker have the team sleeping in one of his tent cities whilst striving to maintain New Zealand’s first world image?

Instead of insulting the masculinity of another country’s rugby team perhaps Bob Parker would do better to concentrate on the task at hand i.e. re-homing the thousands of people displaced from Christchurch and the eastern suburbs by this quake. Give them  safe buildings in which to work. Give them functioning sewerage systems, electricity and potable reticulated water supplies. That is where his priority should lie, with getting his own people back on their feet not with making aspirational speeches that have little substance behind them.

Is Christchurch capable of bearing the enormous burden that tens of thousands of visitors will place on the already fragile and struggling infrastructure? Is this really about ‘keeping the game’ for the people of Canterbury, or a fear that to lose it may jeopardise the whole of the world cup, thus placing millions of dollars in liability on the tax payers of New Zealand?

Finally, the have been murmurings that Australia could host some of the matches and provide much need accommodation

Australia, which has an abundance of stadiums after hosting the Olympics in 2000 and the Rugby World Cup in 2003, has been touted as an alternative venue but tournament organisers say the option is not on the table.

“Rest assured, RWC 2011 will proceed and all matches will proceed in New Zealand,” Rugby New Zealand 2011 said.

Richard Knowler, senior rugby writer at the Christchurch Press newspaper believes organisers may have to rethink that position, citing the destruction of hotels in the city’s downtown area as a major hurdle.

“I’m sure one of the things that will be considered is if they can redirect some games to Sydney, it’s only three-and-a-half hours away,” he said.

Perhaps this could be an option, with all the proceeds from the matches donated to the earthquake appeal. This will be a way for the people of Christchurch to have the financial benefit of the tournament without any of the burden it will create. In the meantime they can focus on getting their city functioning again without the inevitable distortion and bias that preparing for the world cup deadline will create.

In all conscience, how can Christchurch hold this tournament if hundreds of its people are still living in tent cities during the New Zealand winter and rental price gouging of up to 150% is already being called “looting by another name” in a city where so many have been left homeless.

Other sites where people talk about the damage in the Crowne Plaza

Quake struck as man was on the seventh floor

“she’s toast”

Grand Rapids woman caught in New Zealand earthquake

don’t do it yourself – what a disaster

Wonderful staff but sadly dated (October, before the larger quake)

Stairs at Crown Plaza (photo dated 5 October 2010)

One thought on “Decision On Christchurch RWC On A Knife Edge, English Rugby Team “Less Than Men,” Stadium Damaged

  1. The “you’re a sissy” schtick is overplayed, but nowhere more so (from my experience in travel to other countries, like Singapore, Australia and New Zealand) than in New Zealand.
    Many youths get driven into unproductive behaviour with the “be a man” heckling from those who want others to share their fate, misery loves company.
    With such an idea of “dominance over others”, “intellectualism is for wimps”, “have a beer, bro” is it any wonder that skilled technical people are leaving? There’s very little future for them where social lubrication and mateship count for more than proven technical expertise and the ability to be reliable and put in the hard yards.

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