Sept. 9th – The World’s Greatest Rugby Party Kicks Off Today
You can practically touch the anticipation of the opening ceremony and New Zealand All Blacks match with Tonga in the chilly New Zealand air. Yesterday’s NZ Herald reported that 50,000 people are expected to head to the Fanzone designed for 12,000 in Auckland to watch the opening ceremony while 60,000 ticket holders pile into Eden Park. Several hundred thousand more will head to pubs or Fanzones set up in other NZ cities to watch the opening and a match that has a fairly foregone conclusion. All Blacks beat Tonga win by 20 is my prediction. Can you imagine that many people interested in a rugby match in the USA? And New Zealand has a population of about 5 million.
Yesterday’s major New Zealand newspaper the New Zealand Herald related practically every story to the World Cup and of course the sports section was solid rugby. Here is a sampling of the stories: 1. Cover photo of final rehearsal with headline, “Let’s get this party started!”, 2. Putin has decided to not come to Russia vs. USA match but is sending his second in command and Miss Russia. (Where is Joe Biden and Miss America?), 3. Half page of pictures of famous wives and girlfriends of players, 4. Story on a haka flashmob that is roaming Auckland and spontaneously performing the haka. 5. Australian and New Zealand prime ministers take a break from the Pacific Islands Forum to swap jerseys and kid each other about who will win, (Both seemed relatively confident they will meet in the final.) and a couple articles about not drinking too much and how to handle a hangover. In the sports section the stories ranged from the All Blacks surprise selection of Dagg, Kahul, and Toeva as their full and wingers to start against Tonga to a general level of discomfort that Paddy O’Brien (head of referees) seems to have left it to the last minute to ‘have a serious talk with his charges this week to ensure they are all on the same page.”
I’m in Wellington now and about to head to the Fanzone here. Let’s get this party started!!