Rugby World Cup on track despite quake, says NZ

The Christchurch earthquake dented Rugby World Cup ticket sales but plans for the biggest event ever staged in New Zealand remained on track, the tournament chief said on Wednesday.

With 100 days to go until the rugby showcase, Rugby New Zealand 2011 chief executive Martin Snedden said the February 22 quake that killed 181 people had presented the biggest challenge facing tournament organisers.

All seven matches scheduled for Christchurch, including two quarterfinals, had to be moved after the devastating quake rendered the city’s stadium unplayable and shattered its infrastructure.

Organisers refunded 150 000 tickets sold for the Christchurch matches and gave the original purchasers the chance to buy them back.

Snedden said the take-up rate had been brisk for the two quarterfinals, which will now be played in Auckland, and a pool match between England and Argentina.

‘Harder prospect’
But he said reselling the remaining games originally earmarked for Christchurch, which includes fixtures such as Australia v Russia, had been “a harder prospect”.

Snedden said he hoped for a late surge in sales when the tickets went on sale to the general public on July 4 but admitted there were doubts the tournament could reach its overall target of 1,35-million ticket sales.

“Realistically, we’re probably not quite as confident as we were before the earthquake happened, but there’s a lot that can be done,” he told Radio New Zealand.

Snedden said overall preparations were on schedule, including construction of a new stadium in Dunedin and the refurbishment of Auckland’s Eden Park, where the final will be played.

He was still was confident the tournament would meet its target of NZ$268-million ($220-million) revenue from ticket sales, which would leave taxpayers and the New Zealand Rugby Union with a shared deficit of NZ$39-million. — AFP

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