Editorial: An emotional rollercoaster of a year

More than 16 months have passed since the first Christchurch earthquake, and aftershocks continue to rock the city. Photo / Getty Images
More than 16 months have passed since the first Christchurch earthquake, and aftershocks continue to rock the city. Photo / Getty Images

On the morning of February 22 this year, our front page featured the rates paid to administrators of the Whitcoulls and Borders retail chains. Elsewhere in the paper All Black Ma'a Nonu's one-week suspension for a dangerous tackle made news, and protests were reported in the Libyan city of Benghazi. The editorial that day commented on trade talks with the United States under discussion in Christchurch. It seems such a long time ago.

At lunchtime that day, Christchurch was devastated. An aftershock nearly as strong as the earthquake the previous September - but much shallower and closer to the city - created ground acceleration forces unprecedented in New Zealand. Stone buildings fell, shopping parapets collapsed on people and vehicles, two modern multi-storey structures subsided, crushing almost everyone within.

When the dust cleared, the city centre had been evacuated. Barricades went up as aftershocks continued and attention turned to the human needs of eastern suburbs residents who had been living without sewers and adequate services since September.

Most were waiting for insurance decisions on the fate of their homes and after the February quake they had to wait longer.

The plight of Christchurch has so dominated national attention that it's hard to believe the shattering event happened this year. February 22 seems longer ago. Cantabrians have lived through countless aftershocks since, most recently four days ago. After 16 months, their ordeal may not be over.

When the year began we looked forward to quite a different event dominating 2011 and, in its own way, it did. Our editorial on New Year's Day anticipated the Rugby World Cup with trepidation. We thought the "stadium of four million" ambitious "because New Zealand is not quite the rustic, rugby-mad land the slogan suggests. Most of its people live in cities and many of them dislike rugby and all it represents. Of those who do follow the game," we said, "the vast majority are interested only in the fortunes of the All Blacks."

How wrong that proved to be. New Zealanders turned out to be everything the Rugby Union promised when it gained the right to host the event, and everything Martin Snedden's organisation had trusted them to be when it spread the matches around the country.

In places such as Whangarei, Napier, New Plymouth and Palmerston North, where people had no chance to see the All Blacks or big games, they filled stadiums for teams such as Canada, Tonga, Japan, USA, Russia, Romania and Georgia, there not for the rugby so much as for the thrill of participating in the event and making it fun.

In this they excelled themselves, dressing up as supporters of one side or the other and whooping it up in the stadium, enjoying the music and razzmatazz of modern event production but, more than that, enjoying the sparks they struck off each other. New Zealanders who experienced those evenings will never forget them and perhaps our regular rugby crowds will be more lively from here on.

They were of course extremely lively after the All Blacks' scintillating semifinal against Australia, and after the struggle with France in the final. Something of that effervescence could be a lasting legacy in rugby crowds.

Other things happened in New Zealand in 2011 but who can remember them? The quake and the cup have overshadowed all else. Disaster and delight have defined the year. Disaster makes the delight more valuable when we look back. We sorely needed that golden trophy.

- NZ Herald

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