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Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Global event 'possible and positive focus'

Global event 'possible and positive focus'

An international event can be held in a disaster-hit city, an expert on disaster recovery says.

Christchurch will know by the end of the week what the Government's view is on AMI Stadium's ability to host Rugby World Cup games.

Bruce Howard, the head of a division of global engineering company MWH, which has 140 employees in Christchurch, said from Denver, Colorado, yesterday that his firm's experience in the rebuilding of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina in 2005 showed what a big event could do for the recovery of a city.

New Orleans' Mardi Gras, scheduled for six months after the hurricane, became a positive focus, a rallying cry for the city and important for the city's psyche and economic wellbeing, he said.

"It's important to have short-term goals and put yourself back on the map. It gives the community a goal. The leaders said we are going to have the Mardi Gras, and everybody got behind it," he said.

The determination to have the event meant that rebuilding efforts had to focus on ensuring infrastructure, hotels and restaurants would be ready.

Temporary small towns were built to house workers and displaced people, and building continued 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Water system repairs were concentrated in the tourist area, and a temporary wastewater plant was built to cope with the influx of tourists. "In the end, I think they had a successful event," Howard said.

The focus in Christchurch is on AMI Stadium, which shows few obvious signs of the damage that has placed Christchurch's World Cup role in jeopardy. The columns under the stands are all upright, and the pitch looks green and lush, if uneven.

However, concrete floors and some walls have cracks up to 30 millimetres wide.

It is unclear which earthquake caused the cracks, but they will be a major worry for engineers.

The most severe damage appears to have occurred in the Tui (southern) Stand and the new Deans (eastern) Stand. Stairs leading to the Tui Stand have serious cracking, and doors leading into the stands are sticking.

An entrance in the middle of the Deans Stand has bulged upwards and has separated from the side wall.

Areas under the stands are littered with debris, indicating material has fallen from the underside of the stands. In one place under the Deans Stand, sheared bolts lie on the concrete floor.

A decision on whether Christchurch can host any cup matches should be made public by the end of the week.

The final call on Christ-church's hosting rights rests with the International Rugby Board, but it will liaise with the Government before making a decision.

Rugby World Cup Minister Murray McCully visited the ground last week and said serious liquefaction had occurred to the turf and the stands had structural damage.

Vbase, the company that runs the stadium, has commissioned several reports.

Chief executive Bryan Pearson said this week that only preliminary reports from consultants were available.

"We would expect we would have quality information through later this week," he said. "Towards the end of this week we are going to be in a much better position in terms of having all the facts available."

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