New Zealand came close to losing Rugby World cup 2011

Martin Snedden who heads the 2011 Rugby World Cup organising team.says that New Zealand came close to losing the right to host the 2011 Rugby World Cup.

Saturday, December 13, marks the start of the 1000-day countdown until the kick-off of the 2011 tournament.

Snedden, the chief executive of Rugby New Zealand 2011 has disclosed how New Zealand almost botched the hosting rights because of the mess surrounding the expansion of Eden Park which is being expanded in order to host the final.

When New Zealand won the right to host the Rugby World Cup they promised the IRB that they would re-develop Eden Park stadium so that it could hold a minimum of 60,000 which is an IRB requirement.

Local residents however protested the expansion for all manner of reasons which included financial and noise pollution.

Before the redevelopment started there were a number of rumours circulating about the IRB possibly moving the final to Sydney but Snedden says that moving just the final was unlikely as the IRB would have just moved the whole tournament.

“My gut feel is if we couldn’t have sorted Eden Park out we ran a very high risk of losing the whole tournament,” Snedden told Yahoo!Xtra.

“It was that central to the whole thing.

“I think in the end if we had gone to the IRB and said we are just not going to make it with Eden Park and we haven’t got a satisfactory alternative, and that is a 60,000-seat stadium, they probably would have said, ‘Well, you are not going to be hosting the thing. We will move it somewhere else’.

“That pressure was around for quite a while.

“It was a matter of working through each of the individual issues and finding the right end result.”

It would not have been the first time that New Zealand had messed up hosting the Rugby World cup as in 2003 they could not guarantee clean stadiums so the IRB moved New Zealand’s matches to Australia.

Snedden however says that now the development is underway he is a happy man.

“I am happy now,” he continued.

“Before I got involved in this it was a bit of a mess.

“The way it all started, it reached a point where it was a bit of a crisis point.

“Two years ago decisions had to be made and people just had to get on with it. So those decisions were made, the waterfront stadium went out the window and people honed in on Eden Park.

“And as soon as that was done, then the ability to then work on major issues around the redevelopment was a lot easier. We were focusing on one thing, rather than the possibility of two things.”

Demolition of Eden Park started in August this year and other stadiums around New Zealand are being re-developed for the tournament.

Early reports are the construction is ahead of schedule which Snedden says is encouraging to all involved in RNZ 2011.

An earlier risk assessment of the entire workings of RNZ 2011 had identified the Eden Park redevelopment as the “most critical tournament risk”.

“Things have been sorted out and ticked off,” Snedden said.

“The design of the stadium went through all sorts to start with, but then got tidied up and is in good shape now.

“Who was going to pay for it was a big issue. But in the end that was basically sorted out, largely through central government. They decided most of it was their responsibility.”

“Things like resource consents, you have to go through those carefully and responsibly. It took a while but we are gradually getting there.

“There is still one resource consent needed, but that should work itself through.

“As soon as people see the bulldozers up there, a lot of the heat goes out of it. Instead of becoming this plethora of issues, it really just hones into a major construction job which just has to be completed well and on time.”

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