Kerre McIvor

Kerre McIvor is a Herald on Sunday columnist

Kerre Woodham: Party is only just beginning

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A brilliant beginning - and a good-humoured crowd. Photo / Richard Robinson
A brilliant beginning - and a good-humoured crowd. Photo / Richard Robinson

There were so many options for taking part in the celebrations that marked the opening of the Rugby World Cup that it was hard to decide where to be.

Queens Wharf sounded like it was going to be party central, just as the organisers promised us.

The thought of taking a picnic up to one of the many viewing points around the city to get a grandstand view of the fireworks was also tempting.

But, ultimately, you had to be there, so we opted to head along to Eden Park. The Irishman and I decided we'd walk from Grey Lynn to Eden Park but my mum and her friend, both in their 70s, chose to use the buses.

I saw the two of them off, All Blacks scarves round their necks, gold cards in their hands and game tickets in their pockets. I crossed my fingers that they'd arrive safely.

For them, it couldn't have gone more smoothly. They first squeezed on to one packed bus, where two young Tongan fans gave up their seats for the silver hairs, and then on to the bus to Eden Park - and again, two young Tongan fans gave up their seats immediately.

They arrived before the gates had even opened.

For us, too, it went like clockwork, as indeed did the whole evening.

The opening ceremony was great - no Beijing Olympics, for sure, but the lighting display was awe-inspiring. The facilities at the stadium were brilliant and the crowd was in good humour.

Those waiting for trains might have had that good humour sorely tested I hear, but for the four of us, it was the best possible start to what promises to be a brilliant festival of rugby.

The Tongans have been the spark this week, from the moment of the colourful and noisy welcome from thousands to the team at Auckland Airport.

I got caught up in the traffic on Monday as I was heading to catch a plane to Wellington and found myself in the middle of an unofficial motorcade.

I started fretting about missing my flight, then I just let it go. What did it matter? I could always catch another plane and besides, it was my fault for cutting it fine.

The airlines always tell you to leave plenty of time in case of unexpected delays - although I bet they never imagined thousands and thousands of Tongan rugby fans would be that delay.

I wandered down to the end of my road to see the Tongans training the next day - or rather, to see the Tongan fans because they seem to get the point of the Rugby World Cup.

Their team doesn't stand a chance of winning the Webb Ellis trophy, but the fans will take any victories, accept any losses and support the team with passion and fervour.

By Friday, Auckland was electric with excitement. People were tooting at one another - not in a Tau Henare, career-limiting kind of a way - but in a spirit of camaraderie as they recognised each other's flags.

Houses and workplaces are a riot of colour and people don't really care that they've drawn the United States or Romania in the office sweepstake.

Die hard grinches (like my mate and fellow columnist Wendyl Nissen) have left the city, leaving the way clear for the rest of us to party.

Whether it's the festival atmosphere or the brilliant spring weather, I've never known Aucklanders to be so happy and positive en masse. Long may it continue.

- Herald on Sunday

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