Cup hinges on engineering reports

By Jarrod Booker

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Destroyed roads outside AMI Stadium. Photo / Greg Bowker
Destroyed roads outside AMI Stadium. Photo / Greg Bowker

Engineering reports expected in coming days on Christchurch's earthquake-damaged AMI Stadium will dictate whether the city can play host to the Rugby World Cup.

The stadium earmarked to host pool matches and quarter-finals in the tournament starting in 185 days has structural damage to at least two stands, and "significant" liquefaction damage to the playing surface, which Prime Minister John Key said could take months to address.

Mr Key said the decision over Christchurch's hosting rights ultimately lay with the International Rugby Board, but he said if the stadium could be repaired in time, other pressing issues could be dealt with.

"Yes, we need to deal with accommodation issues and we need to deal with bars and restaurants and the like - I think we can address those issues. But we can't do that unless we have a stadium that gets the tick-off," he said.

"We won't have a clear answer for a couple of weeks, but we are getting closer."

Vbase, which manages the stadium, told the Herald it planned to release fresh information on the state of the stadium later this week or early next week.

"It's important to do the detailed work, so we are dealing with facts rather than speculation," Vbase chief executive Bryan Pearson said.

An initial assessment of the stadium after the quake had revealed some repairable structural damage, and the liquefaction affecting the stadium inside and out.

"What the implications are of that, we don't know," Mr Pearson said.

Mr Key said he was aware of damage to the Hadlee and Deans Stands in the stadium, and the liquefaction damage to the playing surface "which means it needs to be rebuilt". "And that takes quite a number of months."

Rugby World Cup Ltd said it would be inappropriate to speculate on Christchurch's ability to host the world cup until an "extensive review and assessment" was completed. This could take several weeks, it said.

"It is clear there has been damage to Stadium Christchurch, accommodation and other infrastructure. However no decision will be taken about the RWC 2011 matches scheduled to be held in Christchurch until accurate and confirmed information has been received and analysed following the completion of the currently ongoing full assessment.

"Whatever the outcome ... all 48 matches will be hosted in New Zealand and the tournament will kick off on September 9."

Rugby New Zealand 2011 spokesman Mike Jaspers told the Herald that like the other parties, it had to wait to see what shape Christchurch was in. Asked if contingency plans were being prepared in case Christchurch was not able to host the tournament matches, Mr Jaspers said he would not be drawn on that.

Rugby greats spoken to by the Herald are urging World Cup organisers to give Christchurch every opportunity to be ready for the tournament.

Former All Black coach Alex "Grizz" Wyllie said Canterbury needed the World Cup now more than ever. The stadium had to be up to standard, and if it was, the region would do whatever was required to meet the needs of visitors. He stressed it was still early days.

"For God's sake, give them a chance to sort out the stadium, and then the accommodation is the next thing."

All Black great Andy Haden said it would be a "terrible pity" if AMI Stadium was not ready for the cup. The next tier of venues did not offer the same capacity, and Auckland already had more than enough matches, Mr Haden said.

- NZ Herald

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