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Editorial: Rugby World Cup's success will echo long into future

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All Black captain Richie McCaw (L) with the Webb Ellis Cup and coach Graham Henry (R) during the All Blacks parade in Wellington. Photo / Sarah Ivey
All Black captain Richie McCaw (L) with the Webb Ellis Cup and coach Graham Henry (R) during the All Blacks parade in Wellington. Photo / Sarah Ivey

The experience of a superb, well-organised, world-class event has been so good we are not ready to let it go.The victory parades in Auckland and other centres this week were the final flourishes of an event that has been as successful off the field as on it.

The fact that a parade could be organised and held so smoothly in Auckland not much more than 12 hours after the All Blacks had won the cup speaks volumes for the co-ordination of civic authorities and event organisers.

In some ways, the parade was their most impressive effort, since they were unable to advertise it too much lest they sounded presumptuous or, worse, jinx the team. But they got the word out effectively and when people poured into the city on the public holiday, the transport systems coped and the crowds on the streets were well directed.

The same can be said of the night of the final when a vast number of people - not all of them with tickets to the match - took a last chance to walk the "fan trail" from Britomart to Eden Park.

The walk was the inspired idea of somebody within the Auckland Council. Many might have thought it doomed to fail; the climb to Karangahape Rd is steep, the Great North Rd car yards are not exactly scenic, on foot it is quite a long way.

But with student art in Myers Park, street entertainment at intervals and throngs of excited strollers, it was an experience Aucklanders will fondly remember and possibly want to repeat for big games at the newly upgraded stadium.

The council had aimed to use the World Cup to popularise walking among other "alternative" modes of travel.

After the debacle of bus and train services on opening night, those services handled a lighter load without further problems.

Aucklanders will be wary of offers of free public transport in future. Remove the regular price filter and demand is always likely to exceed the capacity available. But at least in future crowds waiting for a train back to the city will know it is not too far to walk.

The Rugby World Cup has left a legacy of new stadiums and a new spirit in many centres besides Auckland. Match venues from Whangarei to Invercargill have discovered the fun they can have when the town gets behind an event and so many get into the spirit of it.

Most of the credit no doubt belongs to Rugby New Zealand 2011, the host organisation set up in 2006 by the Government and the Rugby Union. With Martin Snedden at the helm, it had five years to plan and deliver a popular event nationwide, the "stadium of four million" promised to the International Rugby Board.

One of its masterstrokes was to recruit an army of volunteers in every centre. These cheerful people, carefully selected and given a couple of training sessions, have been the face of the nation for visitors and a source of pride for all of us. They seemed to be everywhere, ready to offer assistance or just a greeting to anyone. In their unobtrusive way they have been as important as the All Blacks to the success of the event off the field.

So has the "Real New Zealand" festival, an itinerary of cultural events, and the "Backingblack" travelling entertainment that gave each match venue much more than rugby to enjoy.

But the enthusiasm of New Zealanders has been crucial. If we have surprised ourselves, we have probably emboldened promoters of other events and their sponsors.

Rugby is not the only game in any town these days and sport is not the only attraction that might catch a community's imagination.

Flags are still flying on many cars and they may flutter for a while yet. The experience of a superb, well-organised, world-class event has been so good we are not ready to let it go.

- NZ Herald

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