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The Malaysian Insider :: Sports

NZ PM hopes Christchurch can host Rugby World Cup

Posted: 22 Feb 2011 08:47 PM PST

Rescue crews look for staff in the damaged Pyne Gould Guinness building in central Christchurch February 22, 2011. — Reuters pic

WELLINGTON, Feb 23 — New Zealand Prime Minister John Key hopes Christchurch can still host rugby World Cup matches as planned later this year despite the deadly earthquake that hit the city yesterday.

New Zealand's second largest city is one of the venues for the Sept. 9-Oct. 23 tournament and scheduled to host seven matches including England and Australia's openers and two of the quarter-finals at Christchurch Stadium.

The earthquake, the second major tremor to hit Christchurch in five months, killed at least 75 people and left roads buckled and buildings toppled across the city of 400,000.

"If we can host the rugby World Cup as we intend in Christchurch I would like to do that," Key told a news conference in Wellington on Wednesday.

"It's some way into the future (but) it's a very important city to New Zealand. It would be a demonstration Christchurch is back up on its feet.

"One of the issues might be accommodation; there has been substantial damage to hotels."

Rugby World Cup organisers earlier said it was too early and would be inappropriate to speculate whether the quake would have an impact on the showpiece event.

"At this time RWC 2011 must take a backseat while Christchurch deals with the aftermath of this tragedy," tournament communications manager Mike Jaspers said by e-mail.

"Our thoughts are very much with the people of the region. It is too early to talk about any implications for the tournament and any assessment must wait while the rescue and recovery efforts take priority."

Given the provision of hotels and other accommodation for the tournament was already tight before the destruction caused by the earthquake, it is likely that there will be implications.

The governing International Rugby Board issued a similar statement calling for the focus to remain on the emergency response in the city where the search for survivors in the rubble continued on Wednesday.


An international athletics meeting due to take place in Christchurch on Saturday has been postponed "for an undetermined period" because of the quake.

"QEII stadium along with many of Christchurch's hotels and infrastructure have suffered substantial damage," promoters said. "The International track meet ... has been called off."

The Australian women's cricket team, who were training just outside the city when the 6.3 magnitude quake struck, will be evacuated and their one-day international series against New Zealand cancelled, Cricket Australia said.

"The squad is in good spirits ... and plans are now being finalised to get the team home," read a statement released today.

New Zealand's cricket team were in India at the World Cup when the quake struck and looked set to play on with a match against Australia coming up on Friday in Nagpur.

"The greatest thing we can do for a lot of people is win the game against Australia," skipper Daniel Vettori said in a video posted on the New Zealand Cricket website. "That would bring a little bit of relief to some people going through a tough time."

The Canterbury Crusaders have yet to decide whether to fulfil their Super rugby fixture against the Hurricanes in Wellington on Saturday after the death of one of the board members of the organisation in the disaster.

Canterbury Rugby Union chief executive Hamish Riach said a board member, who was not named, had been killed and that he would be consulting with coaches, management and senior players on Wednesday to decide whether they should travel north.

Asked later about the implications for Christchurch hosting the World Cup matches, Riach was circumspect.

"Right now it doesn't feel like we could host very much at all," he told Television New Zealand.

"We've been looking forward to it (the World Cup) for five years and it's an event that promised so much for the city and the wider region and you'd certainly hope so.

"It's too early to say. Everyone is in the immediacy of this traumatic event and we're not quite getting our heads around that space just yet, but gosh I hope so but who knows?" — Reuters


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Singaporean coach backs away from sexist spat

Posted: 22 Feb 2011 07:25 PM PST

SINGAPORE, Feb 23 — The Singaporean soccer coach at the centre of a sexism row says he is shocked at comments attributed to him by local media and denies making sexist remarks about a female assistant referee.

"I did not single her out. I don't want to be the next Andy Gray," Woodlands Wellington coach R. Balasubramaniam said, referring to the former Scotland striker sacked from his role as pundit for Britain's Sky Sports last month after making sexist remarks about a female match official.

"I was shocked when I read the quotes attributed to me in the papers this morning because I thought she did a good job throughout the match and had actually raised her flag for a foul when Albirex scored," Balasubramaniam told today's Straits Times newspaper.

The 37-year-old was reported as launching a tirade against officials, including female assistant referee Rohaidah Nasir, after his team lost to Albirex Niigata in the S-League on Monday.

According to Singapore's The New Paper on Tuesday, Balasubramaniam said: "Look at the standard of the linesman. You put up your flag and then take it down. What is this? And the refereeing panel had to put this lady on!"

Rohaidah is one of two FIFA-certified female officials in Singapore and has been officiating in the S-League for two years.

The Football Association of Singapore told the Straits Times it had written to Balasubramaniam seeking clarification. — Reuters 


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