Key players unanimous in Christchurch choice

MATT RICHENS
Last updated 05:00 31/07/2013
Hadlee, Parker
Photosport
CHUFFED: Mayor Bob Parker receives a plaque from Sir Richard Hadlee to congratulate Christchurch on its selection as a host city for the 2015 Cricket World Cup.

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Sentimentality played its part, but it was a unanimous decision to award Christchurch the opening match and the opening ceremony of the 2015 Cricket World Cup, organisers say.

While there is dirty great asterisk next to it, Christchurch was awarded three games in the sport's showpiece tournament, including the opener between New Zealand and Sri Lanka.

The Black Caps will play twice more in Canterbury, once against South Africa at Hagley Oval in a warm-up game and at Lincoln's Bert Sutcliffe Oval against Zimbabwe. Sri Lanka also play South Africa at Hagley and Zimbabwe at Lincoln in warm-up games.

But, like Hagley's three World Cup games, the four warm-up matches are conditional on the Hagley Oval redevelopment going ahead.

A decision on that is currently with the Environment Court and is expected early next month.

If the Environment Court ruling is favourable the Council still need to award a lease and approve a scope of works.

Should the process fall down at any of those stages, Christchurch and Canterbury would lose its three Cup matches and four warm-up games, though would retain games in the 10-team qualifying tournament in late January next year featuring tier two nations playing for the final two spots in the tournament proper.

Head of the World Cup's New Zealand branch Therese Walsh confirmed a contingency plan was in place, but refused to elaborate.

"It's fair to say we've got contingency plans for every venue and city. We never know what's going to happen, just like Rugby World Cup. Those games belong in Christchurch and that's where they should stay," she said.

But it's not up to Walsh and should Christchurch lose the matches, the favoured back up plans would be to either spread Hagley Oval's games between other cities, probably Auckland, Wellington and Dunedin, or the less likely option of awarding them to the snubbed Queenstown.

Walsh, Christchurch mayor Bob Parker and Canterbury Cricket chief executive Lee Germon all remained hopeful the development would be given the green light.

Walsh, who worked with the Rugby World Cup and was part of the "extremely tough" decision to move games away from Christchurch in 2011, was proud and excited for Christchurch to play a leading role in the 14-team, 49-game cricket tournament.

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She was not the only one.

"Make no mistake, the ICC [International Cricket Council], the member nations, Australia, the team here in New Zealand, we all wanted the opening match to be in Christchurch," Walsh said.

It is understood as many as 10 cities bid for the opening game of the tournament yet Christchurch quickly emerged as the favoured choice.

"Part of [the decision] is absolutely because we feel it is the right thing to do and it's the perfect platform for Christchurch to beam around every television set in the world and say, 'look at us, look at us, we're fabulous'."

Cricket World Cup's New Zealand organisers said there was still plenty to arrange in terms of the opening ceremony and were reluctant to talk about it, but outgoing Christchurch mayor Parker let the cat out of the bag.

"It's not just the opening game, we're talking about the opening ceremony as well," he beamed.

Walsh then confirmed it was "absolutely" the organising committee's intention to host the opening ceremony in Christchurch, though details, including whether or not the ceremony would be on the same February 14 date as the opening game or if there would be a ceremony at the same time in Australia were yet to be confirmed.

Germon was cautiously pleased with the outcome, knowing there was still plenty of water left to cross under this particular bridge and was pleased with the dates too, around what will be the four-year anniversary of the deadly February 2011 earthquake.

"It's great news for cricket in our city... And around the February anniversary, that will mean a lot to the people of Christchurch."

- The Press

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