Christchurch earthquake: World Cup to remain in NZ says Snedden

By Grant Bradley

AMI Stadium suffered damage during Tuesday's earthquake. Photo / Sarah Ivey
AMI Stadium suffered damage during Tuesday's earthquake. Photo / Sarah Ivey

Rugby World Cup boss Martin Snedden has confirmed the tournament will proceed this year and has ruled out relocating the tournament to Australia in the wake of the deadly earthquake in Christchurch.

Tuesday's 6.3-magnitude earthquake killed at least 75 people and caused serious damage to the city's infrastructure putting in jeopardy its prospects of hosting seven matches in the tournament.

"There has been speculation that this tragedy puts the entire event in jeopardy or that matches will relocate to Australia. That is not the case.

"Rest assured, RWC 2011 will proceed and all matches will take place in New Zealand," said Rugby New Zealand 2011 chief executive Snedden.

Snedden said it would wait before determining the city's fitness to host matches.

"It is too early to talk in any detail about implications for the tournament in Christchurch and any assessment by us must wait while the rescue efforts take priority.

"The next step will involve our organisation leading a thorough process of assessing the city's ability to host the seven RWC 2011 matches scheduled to take place there. This will involve an assessment of all the key RWC 2011 infrastructure of the city including the stadium, hotels, training facilities and the transport network.

"A detailed evaluation of this nature will take place as soon as is reasonably possible. We are mindful of the pressure the people of Christchurch are under right now and do not want to place any more demands on them," he said.

Christchurch could lose at least $50 million if games are shifted away from the city.

Yesterday Prime Minister John Key said that "if" cup games could be played in Christchurch he would like to do that as "a demonstration Christchurch is back up on its feet".

Canterbury Tourism chief executive Tim Hunter said losing the cup would be devastating for the city.

"It would be a huge blow financially and psychologically."

Rugby officials first had to establish if the stadium would be fit for playing at and then assess the available accommodation. Several hotels have been badly damaged.

Hunter said the area had lost about $25 million in visitor spending since the September 4 earthquake, with Australian visitors staying away.

Cup organisers have said "it would be inappropriate to comment at this stage on the status of Rugby World Cup 2011 infrastructure or operations" given the focus should be on the emergency response.

Top sides including Australia - who would attract a large proportion of the 85,000 overseas visitors - and England, who would have a smaller number of big-spending fans, are due to play at the city's AMI Stadium during the tournament, which kicks off in September.

The All Blacks are also in line to play a quarter-final in Christchurch and Italy and Russia are scheduled to play there.

The Reserve Bank has estimated the cup could be worth up to $700 million to the economy. Research showed an economic impact in Christchurch of $32.3 million as a result of the Lions tour in 2005 and World Cup organisers have said this could be multiplied several times for this year's tournament. A Christchurch City Council report two years ago put the financial spinoff at $50 million.

Christchurch ratepayers and taxpayers throughout the country contributed more than $20 million to the upgrade of AMI Stadium, which suffered some damage during the quake.

- With NZPA

- NZ Herald

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