Christchurch commited to World Cup


CHRISTCHURCH, March 3- The earthquake devastated New Zealand city of Christchurch is determined it will host Rugby World Cup matches this year, its mayor said Thursday.

Officials believe it may take several months to get essential services operating again in the central city following last week’s 6.3 magnitude quake.

But mayor Bob Parker said Christchurch was "utterly" committed to maintaining its role of hosting five pool games and two quarter-finals in the Cup, which begins on September 9.

"Utterly, absolutely, totally committed to that," he told a press conference, although the city’s rugby venue AMI Stadium will remain closed until at least March 15 while operators check the extent of damage there.

There is also a question mark over several inner-city hotels that are awaiting assessment by engineers after the lethal tremor crippled at least one-third of the central business district.

"We have to be pragmatic and realistic and accommodation is one of the issues that is concerning us," Parker said.

"AMI Stadium is going to be fine for the Rugby World Cup and we are determined to make it happen here in Christchurch."

Parker said he has told Prime Minister John Key and all relevant officials associated with the Rugby World Cup of the need for the seven matches to remain in Christchurch.

"I have conveyed to them that the citizens of this city will be far from pleased if they miss out on an event that has taken on a different meaning to the people of Christchurch and the people of Canterbury."

Key has not discounted Christchurch hosting its game and said it would send a "very strong international message" that New Zealand’s second largest city was rebuilding.

He said New Zealand was looking at bringing in cruise ships for accommodation if there were not enough hotels operating by September to house World Cup fans.

Parker said it would be some months before the central business district of Christchurch would reopen.