Christchurch 'not too dangerous for Cup' - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Christchurch 'not too dangerous for Cup'

WELLINGTON 11/03/2011 03:59:10 PM Comments (0)

New Zealand Prime Minister John Key has emphatically denied the risk of another earthquake makes Christchurch too dangerous to host Rugby World Cup matches.

Key said on Friday he still felt safe visiting the city where he grew up.

Christchurch has been rocked by two major quakes since September, the most recent a 6.3 tremor on February 22 believed to have claimed more than 200 lives.

"I go there on a very regular basis and I don't feel unsafe," he told commercial radio, adding that he had received no advice suggesting another deadly quake could strike during the September-October World Cup.

Key believes it's too early to know if Christchurch could host seven World Cup matches, including two quarter-finals, after the quake damaged the city's AMI Stadium, shattered infrastructure and closed many hotels.

If Christchurch is deemed unsafe, the Australian and England squads will need to find a new base.

The Prime Minister supported holding the matches as planned to symbolise Christchurch's resilience but said the International Rugby Board (IRB) would make the final decision and speculation about further quakes was unhelpful.

"I would rather deal in the facts," he later told reporters.

"We'll know those facts when we get an opportunity to see if the stadium can be rebuilt in time, whether there is enough accommodation and ultimately whether there are enough entertainment facilities."

Key's comments were prompted by a column from British rugby writer Peter Bills, widely picked up in New Zealand media, saying "the harsh, brutal truth" was that Christchurch was in no position to hold World Cup matches.

Even if the stadium and infrastructure were repaired, the IRB could not condone playing matches in a quake-hit city still being hit by aftershocks, Bills said.

"Who on earth could make a decision to go ahead with inviting thousands of overseas rugby supporters into the region, guaranteeing that there would not be another quake?" he wrote.

Key said Bills "should stick to writing rugby columns and avoid becoming a seismologist".

With the start of the biggest event ever staged in New Zealand less than six months away, local officials hope for an IRB decision next week on whether Christchurch gets the green light to host matches.

Key visited AMI Stadium on Thursday and described the pitch as "a complete and utter mess".

The venue, where cracks are clearly visible in some of the stands, is closed until March 15 while experts carry out damage assessment.

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