New Zealand ‘sorry’ for World Cup chaos

2011-09-12 07:48

Wellington – New Zealand Prime Minister John Key apologised today for public transport failures that caused thousands of Rugby World Cup fans to miss the tournament’s gala opener in Auckland.

Rail operators in New Zealand’s biggest city admitted the train system was “overwhelmed” on Friday as hundreds of thousands of people crammed the downtown area for the opening ceremony and the first match between New Zealand and Tonga.

Auckland mayor Len Brown estimated 2 000 people were stranded in packed carriages and missed the sold-out event at the 60 000-capacity Eden Park, the tournament’s main stadium.

“It’s just not good enough, lots of questions asked, (there are) answers to be had, we’re going to get them,” Brown told commercial radio.

Key said authorities were working to ensure there was no repeat of the chaos surrounding the venue, which is scheduled to hold another 10 matches during the event, including both semi-finals and the final.

“Of course I’m sorry that it didn’t work for that small group and, at the end of the day, I would have wanted them to have had the same experience that the vast, overwhelming bulk of New Zealanders did,” he told reporters.

Brown said those who missed out could receive compensation, setting up a hotline where fans could register their details.

One stranded passenger, Shirley Afoa, the mother of All Black prop John, said no amount of money could make up for missing the event.

She said instead of watching her son, who was part of the New Zealand squad at the ground but did not play, being feted at Eden Park, she was stuck in a hot train carriage for hours worried she would have an asthma attack.

“It was an embarrassment for New Zealand to have it fail on the most important day, an opening,” she told Radio New Zealand.

“I don’t think they can bring back what I lost because I will never see my son in another World Cup opening, I wasn’t there to see that.”

Key said next Saturday’s Australia/Ireland match loomed as another major test of Auckland’s transport system and back-up, including extra buses, would be in place to ensure it went smoothly.

“Everyone accepts we need to do better and we need to deliver world-class performance,” he said.

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