Athletes shut out by World Cup plan

KATE DAVIDSON
Last updated 12:13 07/08/2014

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Top of the south athletes could be excluded from their training ground at Saxton Field for six weeks during the Cricket World Cup, despite needing to prepare for the national track and field championships.

The Top of the South Athletics Charitable Trust has asked the Nelson City Council to help local athletes get access to the ground, which is proposed to be off-limits because of the World Cup preparation and games from the end of January to March next year.

Three World Cup group games will be played at Saxton Oval.

The trust is hopeful the council can work out a deal with World Cup organisers.

Athletics Nelson head coach Greg Lautenslager said not having access to the Saxton Field track in the middle of the season for 80 to 100 senior athletes would damage their sporting development.

"It's quite devastating for athletes trying to achieve their goals when they don't have a track to train on or compete on for six weeks."

Oceania Track and Field Championship discus winner Dale Pritchard and 30 others are training for the national championships in Wellington on March 6-8 next year.

Nelson's Commonwealth Games 1500m runner Julian Matthews could also be affected.

The nearest alternative training track is in Wellington.

"Our athletes last year won 27 medals at the New Zealand Track and Field Championships, and that's the most ever," Lautenslager said.

"I have three athletes who are vying to try to get scholarships to the United States, and not having a track would not help their cause,"

He said a six-week closure would affect hundreds of adult and children club athletes, as well as school meetings.

A grass track could be used as a backup for the all-weather track at Saxton, but there would be repercussions for high jump, long jump, triple jump, shotput, discus, javelin and other field sports, which needed specially designed facilities.

Lautenslager said he hoped the World Cup organisers would reduce the amount of time they needed to use the Saxton facilities, or allow specified training sessions for local athletes.

The athletics trust is working with the council to try to resolve the issue.

Trust member Louise Smulian said the council was being "really good, and we have high hopes that when council meet with World Cup Cricket that we will be able to reach a really positive solution that will suit everybody".

A council spokeswoman said the council was due to meet International Cricket Council operational staff and Cricket World Cup staff on August 19, and would discuss the issue and possible solutions then.

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Meanwhile, Nelson is on target and within budget in preparing for the Cricket World Cup. The council's community services committee received a report this morning, providing an update.

The report said tickets for the West Indies vs Ireland game were selling fast, while the Zimbabwe vs UAE and Bangladesh vs Scotland games were selling reasonably well.

The council would look at installing extra seating at the games if needed.

The council also hopes to cash in on the World Cup by running a "Festival of Cricket", with two of the matches falling within the opening week of the event.

This would include a travelling theatre production, The Second Test, at the Theatre Royal, showing the Sri Lanka vs New Zealand match on a big screen at 1903 Square, and a food and wine display at the top of Trafalgar St.

A community and children's cricket tournament at the Tahunanui sports fields and a beach cricket tournament for high school and adult teams could also be run during the World Cup.

Early festivities are due to kick off in November, with the World Cup trophy tour stopping in Nelson.

Council community services group manager Chris Ward noted in his report the increase in costs because of Nelson's isolation, due to the need to transport equipment that could not be provided by local suppliers.

The event still needed more volunteer helpers, he said, with another round of recruitment beginning in October.

- The Nelson Mail

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