New Zealander of the Year 2011 Finalist: Martin Snedden

By Michael Dickison

Martin Snedden led the team that ran the Rugby World Cup. Photo / Paul Estcourt
Martin Snedden led the team that ran the Rugby World Cup. Photo / Paul Estcourt

Nobody will ever quite grasp just how big and complex the job of putting on the Rugby World Cup was.

Spread around New Zealand for 45 days were hundreds of rugby players, thousands of volunteers, more than 130,000 visitors and millions of spectators.

The whole country was whipped up in festivities - scenes from which will become, or perhaps have already become, historic.

At the centre of it was Martin Snedden, chief executive of organising body Rugby New Zealand 2011 - and now a finalist for the Herald's New Zealander of the Year.

"I don't think in my working life I will ever be able to come anywhere near the sense of satisfaction and achievement that has gone with this event," said Snedden.

"I knew right from the start how important this event would be to New Zealand and how risky it was as well. There's no two ways about it - my head was on the block."

A jumble of separate authorities was involved: local councils, travel agencies, stadium operators, transport companies, broadcasters, a Rugby World Cup minister, the International Rugby Board and more. And at times the celebrations came close to chaos - cities were flooded with flag-waving supporters and public infrastructure groaned under the pressure.

But Snedden's professional demeanour was a constant through five years of planning and all 45 days of the tournament.

He said no one minded being associated with a success, but he shrugged off any personal accolades.

"One thing you need to reflect in this - and it's really important to me - is that I've been the non-rugby player or coach face of the Rugby World Cup, and as a result a whole lot of people working with me just as hard and effectively haven't been recognised. What we achieved was a collective effort."

People across the event - including the public - had gone well beyond their duties to make sure it was a success, he said.

"They treated the World Cup exactly the same way that Richie McCaw did - they pulled themselves into teams and it became their Rugby World Cup," he said.

"All over the country people can legitimately hold up their hands and say: I played a part in that thing working."

The event had been a great journey and it was hard to now rip apart his organisation and walk away, he said.

"For 45 days the whole place just came alive. It was a really strange feeling during it because it was like waking up every day and it was a little like a dream, like being carried on a wave of really positive emotion.

"Then you wake up the next week and you think, how am I going to carry on with life? ... We enjoyed those 45 days so much we didn't want to stop."

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