Christchurch awaits World Cup opener
Christchurch, February 11
Christchurch will host the opening ceremony of the Cricket World Cup tomorrow night, while the city’s Hagley Oval will stage the tournament’s opening game between New Zealand and Sri Lanka on Saturday.
Saturday’s opening game of the Cricket World Cup will represent a victory for Hagley Oval and the people of Canterbury.Getting the redeveloped ground across the line as a venue was no simple task. Cricket World Cup’s New Zealand head Therese Walsh said there was times when she had her doubts.
“At one point I was worried we weren’t focusing on the rest of the tournament, because all we were worried about was getting Hagley Oval off the ground.
“We had to fight so hard to get Hagley Oval sorted.”
Funding issues, legal concerns and bureaucratic red tape were eventually overcome.
Hagley Oval hosts the opening game of the tournament between New Zealand and Sri Lanka on Saturday and Walsh said it would be a proud moment for the city.
The opening ceremony will also be staged in Christchurch tomorrow night, an event which is expected to have a larger television audience than the last World Cup’s final.
Walsh understands the pain Christchurch has been through.
She was the chief operating officer for the 2011 Rugby World Cup and was among the group of people who decided the city was not in a position to host matches.
The earthquakes, especially the major one in February 2011, robbed the city of rugby’s biggest tournament.
Walsh was adamant it would not also rob Christchurch, and its people, of cricket’s version too.
Four years on, the rebuilding city will take centre stage.
Wellington’s Walsh said she had a soft spot for Christchurch, especially the way it had bounced back from its obvious troubles.
“I’m not a Cantabrian, but I feel like a Cantabrian now, because of what’s happened. I feel like Christchurch is part of my story now.”
When Walsh flew into Christchurch on the morning of the first day of the Boxing Day test, she saw a packed crowd assembling at the venue.
It was then she realised all the long hours and hard work behind the scenes by those involved had been worth it.
“I flew in an hour before the game and you wouldn’t think you were in a city that had been torn apart by the earthquakes. It was just phenomenal and that’s what the TV screens around the world are going to see.”
Most people assumed Auckland would host New Zealand’s opening game at the World Cup.
Walsh was surprised by how much the International Cricket Council (ICC) and Cricket Australia felt the emotion of the Christchurch earthquakes. She said it was a relatively easy call to hold the opening game of the tournament in the city.
Two other pool matches will also be played at Hagley Oval; the West Indies take on Pakistan on February 21, while British neighbours, England and Scotland, meet two days later.
Walsh said the chance to showcase Christchurch to the rest of the world during the tournament was priceless.
“You’re not only going to see the ground full and some great cricket, the broadcasters will show imagery of the city and do lots of flyovers. There will be a lot of [Christchurch] imagery.”
She expected there would be positive spinoffs for tourism and business in Canterbury.
Walsh was feeling more excited than nervous ahead of the opening game.
With a sellout crowd and redeveloped ground to show off to the rest of the world, she said it was Christchurch’s chance to shine.
“It’s going to look spectacular. There was a [great] crowd at the Boxing Day test, but it’s going to be ramped up even more at the opening match.”