The man who brought the world rowing championships to New Zealand says Sparc's report damning the regatta's $2.2 million loss is a cover-up.

Former Rowing New Zealand chief executive Craig Ross insists: "The bottom line is Sparc backed the bid and appointed its chairman John Wells on to the Karapiro 2010 board."

Ross championed the sport's case after the Kiwis won four golds at Gifu in 2005. The reward came in June 2006, when Lake Karapiro was named 2010 host.

He takes umbrage at the report's claim that: "RNZ did not understand what they were taking on ... proposals and undertakings by RNZ relied on aspiration and emotive factors and lacked insight into operational delivery, [world governing body] FISA requirements and associated cost impacts."


"Sparc signed off and supported the original bid budget," Ross says. "They helped us secure the finance from the Government's major events fund to proceed.

"That funding allowed me to research the FISA bid requirements comprehensively, which included spending two weeks at their Lausanne offices to understand the business of hosting a world championship.

"I had to present that bid to Sparc and the major events fund, so they knew exactly what they were in for. If the organisers had stuck to their knitting, they wouldn't have been in that situation. I think it is a cheap shot."

Sparc chief executive Peter Miskimmin defends his organisation, saying the event and its problems extended well beyond Ross' 2005-07 involvement.

"Ultimately most of this [the financial blowout] occurred in the last year. Craig secured the event and that was great, but the scale got bigger once others took control. From memory, our initial involvement was to commission a feasibility study but we also felt compelled to commission a review at the end as to why the event lost so much money.

"If this was a private company, shareholders would be expecting accountability.

"Ultimately that goes back to the [K2010] board. Sport can't be afforded a soft touch. It's still a commercial operation. Running big events is a risky, complex issue and it's a timely reminder about the importance of good governance.

"They didn't have a proper budget and in the end the report speaks for itself with a loss of $2.2 million."


Ross remains resolute: "I think it is a bit rich of Sparc to commission a report and claim they knew little about the early stages. Taming it down by inferring 'we're going to learn from this' is just a cover-up."

Sir John was among what Ross terms "captains of industry" who the report singles out for the failure, in addition to RNZ and those organising day-to-day running of the event.

The Karapiro 2010 board included former RNZ chairman Bill Falconer, current chairman Ivan Sutherland, RNZ board members Gerry Dwyer and Mike Stanley (until Stanley was elected Olympic Committee president last year), Waipa mayor Alan Livingston, Hamilton mayor Bob Simcock, Tainui representative Stanley Papa, and businessmen Doug Heffernan, Ray Salter, Peter Masfen and John Maasland.

The report states: "The financial management approach adopted by the Karapiro 2010 Ltd board significantly contributed to the cause of the event deficit. The lack of appropriate financial reporting and analysis meant the board and management were primarily focused on operational decisions to create a world-class event with insufficient emphasis on the economic outcome and financial risk management."

It adds: "The exact roles and responsibilities of the K2010 Board members were unclear."

Ross says: "They deviated from the original business plan and budget. They became reliant on gate sales - which we advised not to do during the bid process - and overspent on off-water entertainment and an oversized, expensive grandstand that was beyond their means.

"When [original event organiser] Arthur Klap and I set the budget, which was signed off by Sparc and FISA, it would have dropped $500,000 into RNZ's coffers," Ross says. "Only [Waipa mayor] Livingston really did his job. He managed to get the investment in the lake and the surrounding area which has left the district a lasting legacy."

Klap had to step down before the event because of cancer; he has since recovered. As RNZ CEO, Ross was convicted of two counts of fraud in July 2008 and fined $10,000 for forging documents to elicit almost $370,000 worth of charitable grants. The documents were to buy what were considered faster Italian boats rather than those made in New Zealand. Because his actions were not for personal gain, Ross had the convictions and fine overturned, provided he paid $15,000 towards prosecution costs.

The Evers-Swindell twins won Olympic gold in Beijing by 0.01s and Nathan Twaddle and George Bridgewater took bronze - both medals were won in Italian boats.