A friend came to visit me today and, as often happens, the talk turned to whether Shakeytown would be hosting any Rugby World Cup matches this year. Disclaimer: I have a vested interest in the Chch RWC matches as I was supposed to working at the stadium, in the stands, for each of the games. As well as working at the event, my ideas for further post-graduate studies had been based around the media coverage of the RWC matches and the sports tourists' experiences in Chch post-quake. I'd already been collecting newspapers and documenting the state of the city as it worked to recover from the September quake...
The latest round of seismic chaos and the destruction it caused has almost certainly put paid to any hopes Christchurch had of hosting the scheduled RWC matches this year. My visiting friend is still optimistic about whether the games will take place here but I have no such hope. As soon as the scale of the disaster started to become clear - the swathes of damaged roads & houses, accommodation of all types/budgets broken or demolished, a once-vibrant city centre cordoned off and damaged beyond recognition - it was obvious to me that this was going to be no quick fix.
There are arguments happening via the media as to whether a) the stadium is repairable; b) the city's infrastructure will cope with the influx; or c) if anyone would still want to come here anyway.
Key holds out hope for Chch RWC games
Goff wants Key to 'come clean'
Key quashes British media report
The Telegraph article in question
There has been talk of accommodating RWC visitors in cruise ships to be moored in Lyttelton Harbour... oh wait, isn't that the same town that was at the epicentre of the latest quake? The town in which most of the shops and pubs are now varying sized piles of bricks and rubble?
Where would these rugby tourists go to socialise? No-one will be hanging out in 'party central' at Cathedral Square. Where is the thriving nightlife, the choice of bars/venues/social spaces that any decent city would have, the entertainment options beyond the rugby games? They don't exist, and neither do our chances of hosting any Rugby World Cup games.
How can you possibly justify the focus and expense of preparing this disaster zone for a few thousand temporary visitors when so much of our city is broken and in need of repair? Who's going to be the brave, foolhardy person who announces to eastern suburbs residents that they won't have flushing toilets anytime soon because we're concentrating on looking after rugby tourists?
It's not just a matter of whether the stadium is fixable by September, it's more that the entire city cannot possibly be fixed by September... there is just no way that Chch is going to be a viable host city in that kind of timeframe. Our infrastructure will not cope: our roads are damaged, our houses are damaged, our city is not currently the welcoming kind of place we would wish it to be, and I cannot see this changing in time to satisfy the RWC powers-that-be. People seem to think that these rugby matches and the supporters that travel to watch them will provide a much-needed boost to our local economy but how can we possibly justify putting such a strain on our already fragile city?
My friend and I have placed a wager - hereby publicly notified and declared: He thinks we'll still host RWC games whereas I think there's about as much chance as a snowball in hell. It's a bet I don't want to win because even if I win, we lose.