Quake deals new blow to Christchurch as World Cup pulls out

In another blow to Christchurch's morale after last month's devastating earthquake, the city has been stripped of its 2011 Rugby World Cup matches because organisers fear it may not recover in time.

The rugby-mad city, in New Zealand's South Island, was due to host two quarter-finals and five pool matches, but its AMI Stadium was badly damaged by the 6.3-magnitude quake, which killed an estimated 180 people. With the stadium's operators unsure how long the repairs would take, the Rugby World Cup Minister, Murray McCully, said yesterday that the decision had reluctantly been made to move the games.

The announcement was a blow for Christchurch, which faces the prospect of having to demolish one-third of the buildings in its city centre following the quake. The Mayor, Bob Parker, said: "I just feel pretty gutted, like a lot of people in this city. We're facing a long, hard winter here in this city of ours. We were looking forward to a spring that would be brightened by having the Rugby World Cup here in our city."

The move also left the England and Australia teams looking for new bases for the World Cup, which kicks off on 9 September. The England captain, Martin Johnson, said: "We feel for the people of Christchurch, who are still suffering following the tragic earthquake. But we accept this is the right decision for the tournament and for New Zealand."

The decision was based partly on engineering reports about the quake's impact, and about remedial work required at the stadium, including structural repairs and a full replacement of the playing surface. The stadium's operators were unable to guarantee that the work would be completed in time for the games. The government and International Rugby Board (IRB) also took into account the damage to the city's infrastructure and hotels.

Mr McCully said the government had desperately wanted Christchurch to take part in the World Cup as planned, but the scale of the damage meant it was not feasible.

IRB chairman, Bernard Lapasset, said: "This is a painful decision for all parties. We have explored every option, but unfortunately there is no guarantee, with just 25 weeks until kick-off, that the stadium and key tournament infrastructure will be ready in time."

The two quarter-finals are to be moved to Auckland, which is also expected to be England's new base. No decision has been made yet on alternative venues for the pool matches, but organisers said they would try to ensure they were held in the South Island, within easy reach of Christchurch.

The quake caused an estimated NZ$15bn (£6.85bn) of damage, and the loss of the World Cup – the largest sporting event ever hosted by New Zealand – is a major economic blow to the city.

Mr Parker said: "From my heart, I will probably always find this decision hard to accept, and perhaps hard to agree with at some level."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Junior Web Designer - Client Liaison

£6 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join a gro...

Recruitment Genius: Service Delivery Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Service Delivery Manager is required to join...

Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist

£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A opportunity has arisen for a ...

Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

Day In a Page

The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

Lobster has gone mainstream

Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

Paul Scholes column

Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss