It is Thursday, September 8, 2011. It is the eve of the Rugby World Cup 2011.
When a few years ago it was announced that we had the rights to RWC I started preparing my garden. (I’m a planner – this is what we do.) It’s full now of black pansies and violas and little black ferns. I had a plan of plots of black and white.
Our home is exactly a mile’s walk from AMI Stadium at Lancaster Park. The intention this time last year had been to invite overseas guests in and enjoy our little spare room. I wasn’t planning to go to any of the games – I was instead really excited about being a RWC volunteer. That’s because when the Lions toured here a few years ago, the heart of the city went off like I have never seen before. This year was going to be all that and then some.
At the moment, our TV screens are full of RWC coverage. I hope I’m going to get to a point where I’m going to be able to watch it and fully commit to enjoying it. I’m not quite there yet and I do hope there are some readers of this blog who help make it so for me and for my friends.
It’s not that I’m jealous or envious of any of the other centres which are hosting games we’ve lost- that wouldn’t make sense. We in Christchurch are not in any position to host games because of damage to our stadium and our hotels. It feels a bit like being a kid who’s been punished for something they didn’t do – like we’ve been sent to our room for a crime we didn’t commit.
Yesterday, I spent time with some of the England team. They were lovely although I did fear for the capture of my pink hi-vis vest at one point. The England team had come up to Christchurch to show their support and visit kids and sick folk and generally share the love. Their media trailed after them, the camp followers in that symbiotic relationship.
Some of our publications criticized CERA letting the international media into the Red Zone. I’m more than happy for us to host those media. They will take our somewhat schizoid message back home – that on the one hand we are going through the biggest natural disaster (in insurance terms at least) that the world has ever known – but that (on the other hand) you can come and stay here and from the city west it looks like nothing has happened – and it is good to come here and stay, live and invest.
The international media also is helpful in spreading the equally schizy message that yes, we might have a jiggle while you’re here – but chances are you’re safe.
Make no mistake, Christchurch is open for business. Akaroa is open for business. Hanmer is open for business. Queenstown, Nelson, Blenheim, Hokitika – they are open for business. Although the Christchurch earthquakes have changed the specifics of that, they haven’t changed that overall.
We want visitors here. If you’ve come to Godzone (NZ) to see your team play in the Rugby World Cup, we would love it if you came and looked at our city, got a sense of what we’ve been through, brought your camera, your compassion, and your wallet.
If you’ve travelled a day to get here, we’re worth a half-day trip at least in your visit – don’t you think? We’re the beautiful place that is your natural stopping off point between Nelson and Dunedin.
While our spare room may now be occupied by teenage boys, there are still spare couches, roast lamb and kumara, lots of laughter and rugby on TV. Can’t want for much more than that. If you read this and you’re a Rugby World Cup visitor wanting to drop by for a wine and a chat and a bed for the night – get in touch. The games may not be here any more, but the hospitality hasn’t changed.
Haere mai, haere mai, haere mai.
Welcome to Christchurch. Still open, still smiling, still here.