Rugby World Cup
Stage set for 'spectacular' opening ceremony
ESPNscrum Staff
September 2, 2011
RNZ 2011 chief Martin Snedden speaks at the RWC'11 ticket launch, Sky City, Auckland, new Zealand, March 30, 2010
RNZ chief Martin Snedden is confident the World Cup will get off to a flying start next week © Getty Images

Rugby World Cup organisers have promised "a night to remember" when the tournament kicks off in Auckland on Friday.

The sport's showpiece event will get underway at Eden Park with the opening ceremony followed by hosts New Zealand tackled Tonga in what Martin Snedden, chief executive of tournament organiser Rugby New Zealand 2011, has hailed as a "perfect double bill".

"In one week's time, the world will be watching us as the seventh Rugby World Cup gets underway," said Snedden. "We promise all fans, at Eden Park, and those watching from afar, a night to remember. It is the perfect double bill - a spectacular Opening Ceremony, the likes of which New Zealand sports fans will not have experienced in this country, coupled with two great Pacific nations kicking off Rugby's showpiece Tournament."

The 30-minute opening ceremony, that is expected draw an international TV audience totalling 50 million people, will tell the story of New Zealand and its unique place in the Pacific and represent the coming together of countries from around the world in New Zealand "in pursuit of Rugby's greatest prize". A New Zealand sporting legend will also have a special role, but Tournament Organisers refused to offer further details as to their identity.

"Rest assured he or she will play a pivotal role in the ceremony," added Snedden. "There will also be special recognition of Christchurch, which lost its role as a host city for RWC 2011 following February's tragic earthquake. As well, there will be a unique interpretation of the official Tournament song World in Union featuring the combined talents of over 400 singers, in a performance that will have a special Pacific flavour.

"The performance will sum up the cosmopolitan character of our young nation with singers of Maori, Pakeha, Samoan, Fijian, Cook Island, Niuean, Tongan, Tokelauan, Australian, Chinese, Korean, English, Irish, Danish, American, Canadian, Dutch, South African and Indian descent. The ceremony will be a powerful tribute to New Zealand's creative skills. Some of our finest talent have been working hard to show the world why we are such a skilled and innovative country so this is their chance to shine on the world stage."

International Rugby Board chairman and Rugby World Cup boss Bernard Lapasset, who arrived in Auckland on Wednesday, expects the ceremony to be the most exciting and spectacular in the history of tournament.

"Fans attending the Opening Match and the millions around the world watching on television are going to be in for a real treat," he said. "The ceremony will be a celebration of New Zealand and its rich cultural and Rugby heritage, the history of the Game and the values that binds it together. It promises to be spectacular and I can't wait to see it. There is no doubt that it will set the tone for what will be a very special and successful Rugby World Cup."

The good news for fans who have yet to purchase is that 4,000 tickets are still available.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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