My sister L. and her friend Marie go to the semi-final, Australia v New Zealand.
We caught the bus to the fan zone from the airport, Quay Street is closed off for the duration. The fan zone is spread around the wharves – the giant rugby ball (1.5 hr queue), the enormous barn like beer hall with multi screens; a “taste NZ” centre where you could buy tasters made by our top chefs; an interactive area where you could join the action digitally and kick a goal, run the ball down the field and have your photo taken amongst the action. The young lad we watched lining up for a kick was so small he didn’t register, so had to be held up in the air to make his kick – it gave us all a chuckle. We wandered around the super yachts (quite a few extras in town for the event); and the Wynard Quarter, a big new restaurant area. Also went into the $2 million plastic waka [canoe] which had a 3D film on Maori culture, plus demos of wood carving and tattooing.
6 hours of fan zone, followed by the “fan Trail”, a 5 km walk through the city, along Karangahape Road to finally Eden Park. We stopped at a couple of pubs along the way, including the Dogs Bollix, one I had always wanted to go to. It was there we ran into a big group of Canadians, wearing shirts they had specially made, one half red with Canadian symbols, the other black with the Silver Fern. They said they knew Canada wouldn’t go the distance so they needed a second team to support. They were wearing hats, one side red with a beard, for one of their local players, and the other was black with long dreadlocks. I asked if they thought Kiwis were Rastafarians, but they said that was in support of Ma’Nonu, and his dreadlocks. He is easy to pick out in the All Blacks on the field, with his dreads flying.
The fan walk had entertainment along the way – jugglers, drummers, free ice-creams, singers, fire eaters and so on, to encourage the fans along the walk.
The streets around Eden Park were like a street party – people had tables and chairs set up in their front gardens, having dinner, with TV’s to watch the game, although you could certainly hear it from there. We had earlier heard the choir practising the national anthems.
Our seats were in the temporary scaffolding stand, which were as high as the permanent stand and there had been some trepidation that it would feel as though you were falling off the edge. After 100 steps climbing up through the scaffolding, we reached a platform, and our seats were just there – not in the 20 rows even higher up. And what a view. Truly fabulous. We were sitting next to a couple who had driven up from Te Awamutu, at their first ever test match, both in their 80’s! The game got underway and the noise – the noise! Which got even crazier when the All Blacks won. Marie said next day that her shoulder was a bit stiff – apparently when we won when everyone was jumping up and down and screaming, I had her by the arm and was shaking her like a rag doll.
Our muscles were stiff, and I have to be honest, it took about 3 days to get over it. I felt as though I had played the game, not just watched it. So the country is gearing up for an even bigger party. Let’s hope we have something to really celebrate.
Final:- New Zealand v France
After partying myself to a standstill for the semi, it was a more subdued affair for the final. A group of friends, a big TV and good wine. There was a lot of yelling and screaming at the start, a try was scored which took things to a greater decibel, but as the game went on, we became quieter. there was the odd expletive, and then we were a group of All Black fans, 10 mins from the final whistle, cowering, praying, begging and finally we were released from torment. Oh what a relief. I own up to not being able to watch the screen for the last 15 minutes. I moved to the kitchen and scrubbed and scrubbed the bench to a gleaming shine, while the commentary boomed around the room. I just couldn't look. At the whistle, I think between us there were a few tears, and when we saw Big Brad Thorn shed a tear as well, we felt humble and proud. Wow, the French sure brought their A game.
So today all around town there are sore heads and such a level of excitement. World Champions. The stadium of 4 million was a reality - the support around the whole country was huge.
At the moment on TV is a News Special, covering the victory parade up Queen Street. A fleet of utes (how Kiwi!) is winding its way very slowing up the street, with brass bands playing and doing the haka, bag pipes, and now a another brass band dressed up as kiwi fruit (!). A huge blow up rugby ball, ticker tape blowing in the breeze, millions of balloons and flags, and amongst it all people parading dressed as clowns and kiwis and crazy costumes. The crowd in places is 100 metres deep along the route. And now Captain Ritchie, standing high on a truck, holding up the golden cup. Anytime anyone is asked how it feels, the word on everyone's lips is Awesome!
I think we can live off this quite well for the next 4 years.