World Cup venue closed

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CHRISTCHURCH, February 25 – Christchurch's Rugby World Cup stadium has been closed for two weeks to assess damage sustained when a major earthquake rocked the New Zealand city, its operators said Friday.

Venue manager Vbase said it would take until March 15 to determine if AMI Stadium could host World Cup matches later this year in the wake of Tuesday’s magnitude 6.3 quake, which has claimed at least 113 lives.

"We’ve got minor repairable structural damage, substantial damage to the surrounding streets and likely to services infrastructure," Vbase chief executive Bryan Pearson told AFP.

Pearson also said the playing field at the stadium had suffered "liquifaction" — which is caused when a seismic tremor loosens the bonds between soil articles, turning it into a quagmire.

"We’ve also got liquifaction inside the stadium including on the playing surface," he said.

"We’ve closed the venue until March 15 and that will enable us to make the full assessment."

Pearson said experts were studying the stadium to determine how long it would take to repair but the final decision on whether it was used in the tournament beginning September 9 would be made by Rugby World Cup organisers.

The venue is scheduled to host seven games, including two quarter-finals, during rugby’s showcase tournament.

Rugby New Zealand 2011, which is running the tournament, could not be contacted for comment.

New Zealand’s Prime Minister John Key said earlier this week he wanted World Cup games to proceed in Christchurch if possible as it would be symbol of the city’s resilience after disaster.

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