Isaac Davison

Isaac Davison is a NZ Herald political reporter.

RWC: Are we ready?

Fireworks will light up the night sky in Auckland. Photo / Supplied
Fireworks will light up the night sky in Auckland. Photo / Supplied

The Cup kicks off in a week. Herald reporters Michael Dickison and Isaac Davison look at how prepared we are.

EDEN PARK

The fans' pavilion on the old cricket ground will be completed early next week and the eyesore of scaffolding supporting the two temporary stands will be covered in Rugby World Cup banners.

Head groundsman Mark Perham said he was losing some sleep over the wear caused by 40 hours of opening ceremony rehearsals. But with growth lights running 24 hours a day and good weather forecast for next week, he said the grass should be immaculate.

THE BEER

Eden Park's biggest stress with a week until kickoff is not the pitch, transport, or the new stands, but working out how to open 100,000 beer cans a game.

General manager sales and marketing Tracey Morgan said that with all the major infrastructure completed, the last hurdle was overhauling the bar system from cups to cans - a World Cup requirement.

All cans must be opened at point of sale so they cannot be used as weapons, but this gives staff sore fingers. Instead, Eden Park has imported from the United States 300 can-opening devices of the type used by airlines.

NORTH HARBOUR STADIUM

North Harbour's new broadcast tower and control room was opened on Tuesday, after being tested in two ITM matches. Renovations to allow more media and secure spaces for VIPs were completed last month. All food and beverage stands have been moved to the perimeter of the stadium to enable better flow of large crowds into the stands.

NEW PLYMOUTH

Stadium Taranaki's temporary seating, which lifts capacity to 26,000, is in place. Stadium staff and Taranaki Rugby Club's offices had be moved to council buildings to make room for tournament officials.The move is expected to be completed today.

DUNEDIN

Construction of Stadium Otago finished in late July and external landscaping - tree planting and paving - finished on Wednesday. Carisbrook Trust head Malcolm Farry said the new pitch, which is grown under a roof and sewn together by 20 million nylon strands, had stood up to its first tests. He joked that he would not consider handing out earplugs despite reports that crowd noise was amplified tenfold by the confined space.

WELLINGTON AND OTHERS

Stadium Wellington has finished installing temporary seating to boost capacity to 40,000.

Smaller stadiums such as Whangarei, Palmerston North, Rotorua, Napier, Nelson and Invercargill have needed minor changes for the cup, such as temporary seating. All are now ready and waiting for their biggest audiences. Rotorua Stadium general manager Peter McCloud said: "If the cup started tonight, we'd be ready to go."

THE CLOUD AND SHED 10

The Queens Wharf fanzone and function centre was completed this week and will host the Pacific Islands Forum from September 6. The last touches are being applied to Shed 10, which is expected to be ready early next week.

WAKA

Construction of the waka-shaped pavilion is complete and it is ready to be assembled on-site at Te Wero Island in the week of September 26.

The three marquees that are also part of Waka Maori and will showcase carving, ta moko, weaving and fashion will be built after the waka is in place. Event planners say Waka Maori will be ready to open on October 13. It runs until October 23.

FANZONES AND ADOPT A SECOND TEAM

Plans for fanzones in Auckland are complete, but some testing and their official openings have still to be done.

The Queens Wharf daily programme starts on Saturday next week, and other community fanzones - at the Trusts Stadium, Mangere town centre and Albany Lakes - will open on October 8.

Thirty-four town centres in Auckland have adopted second teams, and all 19 visiting teams have been adopted somewhere in the city. Flags, bunting and posters have been distributed to these areas in their team colours.

AIRPORT

About 100 activities are in place at Auckland Airport to welcome visitors.

Changes include a lounge for processing teams and VIPs, banners, bunting and flags around terminals, extra staff and security screening, layout changes, more parking and refreshed arrivals areas and signs.

Two new hotels and food and beverage options have also been made available.

But Air New Zealand's Koru lounges may be squeezed, as the airline tells its members they may be restricted from bringing in guests during busy periods of the tournament.

TRANSPORT

All Auckland Transport's plans have been finalised since the Bledisloe Cup trial last month.

The emphasis is now on telling Aucklanders they need to plan for getting around during the tournament. Apart from improving services - including updating rail signals and introducing announcements of stops on some buses and trains - the biggest focus has been on encouraging Aucklanders to take public transport to matches.

The number of Eden Park spectators using public transport increased from 10 per cent in 2007 to 53 per cent at the Bledisloe Cup.

TAXIS

Taxi have been booked weeks in advance - bringing a warning to avoid last-minute transport arrangements.

Extensive vehicle inspections and customer service training have put the country's taxis in top shape, says Taxi Federation executive director Tim Reddish.

Drivers will also be closely monitored to prevent visitors being overcharged or taken along unnecessarily long routes.

But taxis will be extremely busy during the cup, and corporates are warned to plan ahead to avoid transport problems.

CAR RENTALS

Rental cars have been retained through the quiet winter season instead of being retired.

But otherwise the influx of World Cup visitors is nothing the industry can't handle, says Apex Rentals director Tony Quinlivan.

HOTELS

Windows have been polished, gardens remulched, faster internet installed and international staff taught some rugby lore at the Stamford Plaza in Auckland.

General manager Peter Gee said his hotel was raring to go - "everything is spick and span".

The Langham Hotel has upgraded beds in all rooms and the Hotel Council's Auckland chairman, Jeffrey van Vorsselen, said there was little left to do.

"Quite a lot of money has been put in throughout the industry to make sure the arrivals are perfect."

There is still spare capacity for last-minute visitors.

RESTAURANTS AND BARS

There is some anxiety among the restaurants near Eden Park, which are worried could overwhelm the strict controls put on them.

Hospitality Association chief executive Bruce Robertson said there had been frustrations about liquor licensing in particular - but he was confident the sector was ready.

"People have had years to plan for this - if they're not ready now they're never going to be."

Extra security had been arranged for waterfront restaurants to keep crowds from breaching capacity limits, Mr Robertson said.

BEER SUPPLY

Stadiums have received their shipments of beer, and the country's fanzones will have theirs dispatched next week.

DB Breweries, which brews Heineken in New Zealand, said there had been years of planning to avoid the risk of running out on big nights.

More than 2000 catering and bar staff have been trained by Heineken about host responsibilities and how to make the "perfect pour". Amsterdam's master pourer, Franck Evers, was brought in for one-on-one training.

VOLUNTEERS

About 7000 volunteers have been put through orientations, online training and workshops - and are ready to go except for their final "passport to play" checks.

They have been given full uniforms, from winter coats down to trousers, and accreditations and pocket guides.

They have already been out to help team welcomes, and will also assist visitors at stadiums, drive tournament vehicles and perform many other tasks.

THE OPENING CEREMONY

About 3500kg of pyrotechnics - plus 14 tonnes of equipment - have been readied for opening night celebrations.

Plans have been meticulously put together, but the fireworks and lighting display cannot be fully tested before the big night: "We are shooting from the hip," said party planner Mike Mizrahi.

For the ceremony at Eden Park, 1000 volunteers have been assembled and put through dance practices. Rehearsals will continue next week.

THE REAL NZ FESTIVAL

A thousand events have been planned and co-ordinated for the entire Cup period, promising to turn New Zealand into a two-month festival.

Real New Zealand festival director Briony Ellis said the events had been timed to fit around World Cup matches - and preparations for later events were stillongoing.

Next week's opening ceremony will be the big kick-off, but Ms Ellis said provinces had their own plans to showcase what they were about, all feeding into the overall festival.

POLICE, SECURITY

More than 10,000 training hours have gone into stadium security in Auckland.

The security arrangements, led by private firm Darien Rush Security, have been tested in seven Super Rugby and 10 ITM Cup matches - and at the Bledisloe Cup test last month.

A control centre has also been set up between police, the city council and government authorities with CCTV cameras to monitor traffic, transport and crowds across Auckland.

Operational plans for police - including leave restrictions to make sure there are enough staff - provide for more than 300 officers to patrol Eden Park and the waterfront on opening night.

CITY PRESENTATION

About 4400 lamp-post banners have been put up around Auckland - the biggest such programme the city has seen.

Fourteen cross-street banners have also gone up, as well as two building wraps - one on 45 Queen St and the other on the KPMG Building at the Viaduct Harbour.

Buses, trains, the tournament's operational vehicles, transport hubs, bus shelters and billboards have all been adorned with tournament-themed decorations.

THE ALL BLACKS?

After two consecutive losses, questions are being asked about the form of the home team a week before the opening match.

- NZ Herald

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