Lighter Moments From The Rugby World Cup (So Far)
Life as we know it is sort of on hold down here.
On Friday, the 2011 Rugby World Cup got underway. That may not sound like much if you don’t live in New Zealand, but just to put things in perspective, when NZ was awarded the hosting rights for this year’s cup they created a government ministry and named a Minister of the Rugby World Cup. Then they changed the dates of the school year around so the school kids would be on break during the finals and semi finals. The official reason is to minimize traffic congestion.
A UK sports writer is persona non grata down here for complaining that New Zealand is “a nation in which parameters begin and end with its national rugby team” and that such a nation “invites ridicule for such a blinkered existence.”
Actually, some places have been designated “rugby free zones” so that people whose parameters extend beyond rugby don’t feel as if they have been stuck in a space/time warp.
But I can’t complain. I lived most of my life in a city whose baseball and football teams rarely even made it to the playoffs so I’m finding the enthusiasm and exuberance all rather refreshing. Every other car is flying the flag of the country whose team the occupants are rooting for. And the opening ceremony on Friday before the All Blacks annihilated Tonga made me proud to be a Kiwi.
Even if you aren’t a rugby fan there is a lot to keep you entertained.
For example, there was the moment of national angst when it was revealed that PlayStation had released a video game called Rugby World Cup 2011 and someone ran a simulated tournament and the NZ All Blacks didn’t win.
Then there was the story about the Auckland City council safety person who was asked about whether panhandlers would be turfed out of town a la New Delhi and Beijing. The answer was no, but we were informed that three security guards had been hired to patrol downtown streets to make sure that visitors were not “beseeched” by people asking for money. I suppose that it’s possible to be “beseeched” for money and if too many people ask, you could feel “besieged.”
Some of the nicest stories have been about the welcomes that visiting teams have received. Because no one place can accommodate all of the teams, the entire
country has been turned into an Olympic village of sorts, with teams being
billeted in large and small towns. In fact, the matches are going to be played all over the country, some in venues with capacity as small as 14,000. When
the All Blacks aren’t playing, the New Zealanders come out to support their new
‘home’ teams. For example, the crowd supporting the Japanese team decked themselves out in kimonos and samauri and ninja outfits.
But not everyone is getting into the party atmosphere. The American team is staying in a North Island town called Wanganui. The local Maori wanted to treat them to a traditional Maori canoe ride on the Wanganui River. Those are the
canoes that they came from Hawaii to New Zealand in, so they are fairly heavy
duty. The American team declined for “safety” reasons.
Yes, there’s been so much going on down here that it’s been hard to concentrate. But yesterday, everyone’s attention was focused on an amazing and unique event. News about the All Blacks temporarily took a back seat because the Nude Blacks made their World Cup debut!
I’ve mentioned before how sports teams get their names down here. So you can probably figure out what the story behind the Nude Blacks is. They bill themselves as “New Zealand’s Premier Nude Rugby Team.”
They are also New Zealand’s only nude rugby team and last night they were defeated by an all female team from Spain, known as “Los Conquistadors.” The Spanish started the game fully clothed. According to the rules, which
are established by, and subject to change at any time by the Nude Blacks, the
ladies would be expected to remove an article of clothing each time the Nude
Some of Los Conquistadores got down to their underwear but that was as far as it went and the Nude Blacks were handed their first defeat in history!
According to eye witness reports, the Nude Blacks performed a haka to open the game and the Los Conquistadors were forced to cool off using Spanish fans which they had brought along for just such an eventuality.
The Nude Blacks are planning three more matches before RWC games in Dunedin.
Discretion prevents me from posting pictures of the event, but those with a strong constitution and sense of humor can see some here.
And we are only two days into a six week extravaganza.