Steve Goble

Choose life. (Deuteronomy 30:19)

When stars from overseas come to visit New Zealand, it can be quite a big deal.

For example, whenever U2 come to put on a concert, pretty well everyone in the country wants to be in that stadium. Every local stranger from Bus Driver to Windmill Language Adjudicator will chat with you enthusiastically about it.

So, what happens when representatives from every civilised nation all descend upon Auckland on the same day?

The usual suspects - thronging crowds, travel paralysis, and crazy money getting burnt.

I guess I had the advantage of being a local who had had the Rugby World Cup visit me once before in England in 1991. Not really being into rugger, my one memory of that is of sitting on a stationary bus for maybe an hour, surrounded by a sea of supporters as far as the eye could see. You know what? I sat there and got some writing done.

Yesterday then I expected nothing less of New Zealand's opening celebrations at Auckland Harbour. I wasn't going to attend the match itself, but rather join with the rest of the congregating public down on Queen Street.

Leaving work in Penrose, the first bus that I saw heading for Queen Street contained maybe three passengers. Unfortunately I was still approaching the bus stop at that point, so promptly did an about turn and headed instead for the train station. Here the carriages were fairly full, but not with Londoners, so they hadn't quite figured out the art of packing themselves in yet. Funny, I always thought that it was the British who were supposed to be the shy ones…

After that train had left, the indicator started predicting another train which, thanks to the single track, could not possibly be approaching as promised. I left and returned to the bus stop.

Presently a bus arrived, fairly full. Well, this was more consistent with my memory, and indeed it delivered us all to Britomart no problem.

At Auckland Viaduct, the polite respect for personal space continued. Although it was quite possible to make one's way through the crowds, I just couldn't figure out where I was supposed to be going to. There were big video projector screens showing SKY ONE's live coverage of festivities, but despite the occasional aerial shot, I just couldn't place from whereabouts nearby these images were being relayed.

I turned left at the viaduct and made my way all the way to the front of one of the screens at Quay Street. It helped that there were currents of people streaming along the edge.

Event organiser Martin Snedden has spoken in the media of his attempts to sell the Rugby World Cup to kiwis who don't like rugby, and when the opening moment eventually came (at the exact same instant the wind whipped up), it was hard to fault his promise. There was music, there were fireworks, there were abseilers doing acrobatics down the side of a building… in short, loads of stuff that had nothing whatsoever to do with the pigskin sport.

Even the actual opening ceremony over at Eden Park featured a huge theatrical dance number, performed with the aid of transforming the pitch itself into the most enormous video-screen I've ever heard of.

Presently however the opening finished, and everyone simultaneously decided to beat the rush out of there.

Afterwards I pootled around a few old CBD haunts, checking my post at the backpackers, and grabbing a Burger King meal to have on my return journey. This turned out to be a shrewd move!

Getting onto the bus involved first finding the new stop, then pushing-in, and finally standing on board for the next hour while we… turned around. Yep, now this was exactly what I had been expecting. Fortunately, some thoughtful people laid-on some entertainment and fights outside the windows to keep our attentions stimulated. (Why must you descend into that? WHY?)

Whatever you think of rugby, or the RWC, this was an absolutely spectacular night to remember, even if you were at home watching it on TV, as flatmate Dave and I did again tonight.

Sure, this morning the papers were even outdoing the UK's Daily Mail in their overuse of the word 'chaos', but that had been a given, right from the moment when New Zealand had first been awarded the tournament.

You never know, I might even attend the next one in four years' time in London.

(if it's still there)

Labels: , ,

0 comment(s):

Post a Comment

<< Back to Steve's home page

** Click here for preceding post(s) **

** Click here for following post(s) **