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Internet charges let down Auckland’s winning show

BARRY NEWCOMBE, the SJA chairman, reports from Auckland, where he says that lessons for London 2012, and England in 2015, can be learned, and renews calls for LOCOG to reverse their plans to charge the media for internet connection next year

Richie McCaw lifts the Webb Ellis Trophy in Auckland today

At one Sunday morning church service in Auckland, the curate was airing his closing remarks.¬† “I would¬† just like to add an additional prayer for tonight. Come on you All Blacks.”

His, and the whole of New Zealand’s, paryers were answered, only just, with a typically compelling Rugby World Cup final that the All Blacks won 8-7 against France.

New Zealand and its major city Auckland have been the lead players in the production of this year’s Rugby World Cup.The country has driven seven weeks of quality match play to teams of media from all over the world without complaint.

Auckland was determined to be the host city that went out in style. During Saturday night, the heart of Auckland was transformed all the way from its waterfront and the giant liners berthed there temporarily to house fans. Streets were closed in anticipation of the city centre parties which have marked each weekend.

In the main media centre at Eden Park, I found few criticisms of the organisation of a tournament which has maintained its place asa fourth biggest in the world behind the Olympics, football’s World Cup and the athletics world championships. The next challenge to Rugby World Cup will be in England, and Cardiff, for the 2015 tournament which from the sheer size of the grounds to be used will comfortably overtake New Zealand’s capacities.

International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge, who played rugby in his youth in Belgium, has been in Auckland to see the late stages of RWC and will have noted how well spectators were looked after in terms of opportunities for their own fan zones and giant wide screen TV. The same facilities will be offered at London 2012 and will need to be available around the country in 2015.

The charges for media internet connection remained throughout the tournament. This was quite an imposition to be added to the costs of travelling to New Zealand from most of the world. The rate card for the London Olympics – whose multi-million-pound sponsors include a major telecoms provider – also includes a charge for internet which has been criticised but not rescinded. Doubtless, that issue will be back on the table at this week’s World Press briefing for 2012.

Some Australian journalists worked the Rugby World Cup from the outside because their credentials were denied in a dispute over photo usage. But from what I saw of the Australian outlets involved, their end product was not affected.

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SJA WORKING LUNCH: Baroness Grey-Thompson on the 2012 London Paralympics. Thu Nov 17: click here for booking details