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We need more than Kiwi ingenuity to be ready for kick off

I know there are huge life-and-death concerns in the world right now but, at a local level, I find myself worrying more and more as to whether or not we will be ready for kick-off come the Rugby World Cup on September 9 this year.

I love New Zealand, I love rugby, I love Auckland and Invercargill and all the places in between. I also know it is tantamount to treason to profer criticism of either New Zealand's ability to do something or rugby. But looking around, I am not confident that we will be ready to the standard the rest of the world expects come the big day. 

Today's New Zealand Herald  looks again at the financial cost of hosting the event here. Me, I'm worried about the cost to our reputation.  There's the big tent thingy going up on the waterfront, the stadiums that are not equipped to deal with the demands of the world's sports and other media, there's the inoperative countdown clock  just opposite Britomart. Then there's the whole business of accommodation, transport links to venues, overpricing, no eftpos at stadiums and (whispers) the normal potential for the weather to be atrocious in September and October.

Whether we like it or not, the world has high expectations of international events of this kind and looking around the country four months out, I wonder if we will meet those expectations or fall dreadfully short. We rely on people coming here. Tourism is, we are told, one of our economic cornerstones. Yet this showcase event looks scarily unfinished at a time when we should be adding polish to the preparations, not still struggling with the infrastructure.  The long term risk to our reputation is far greater than the initial financial deficits being reported. If those coming - or not - for the Rugby World Cup - are not happy with the provisions and preparations for their arrival our tourism industry will be affected for years to come. 

It is naive to think that it is just a sporting tournament even though that viewpoint is the one most heard. If you have any doubts about that, cast your mind back to the debacle in India last year during the Commonwealth Games. September's event is a world showcase for the entire country so we need to see some leadership - and some real action - in order to be ready for those we have invited to come. 

If I had invited visitors from across the world to come to see me in September, the rooms would be ready, beds counted, meals planned, transport sorted and entertainment organised.  All that would be left to do four months out would be a tidy up in the garden just before they got here.

Looking at the event from the inside out, it all looks very piecemeal, disjointed and uncoordinated. From an event management point of view, this is not a good look, nor good operational practice. I am willing someone, somewhere to create a rounded picture for fans and visitors alike of what they can expect - something that doesn't exist at the moment.  

Looking at today's picture, I fear it will take a heck of a lot more than Kiwi ingenuity between now and September to give the rest of the world the welcome it expects - and deserves. Because there is an awful lot more to do than just tidy up the garden.

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