South Stand gives up a se­cret

Central Leader - - Sport - By Scott Morgan

A se­cret es­cape route in­stalled in Eden Park’s South Stand dur­ing the 1981 Spring­bok rugby tour was re­vealed last week.

Trap­doors were put in a few days be­fore South Africa’s test against the All Blacks to al­low the side a quick es­cape from an­ti­a­partheid pro­test­ers, who it was feared could storm the ground.

And 25 years later they have come to light again as de­mo­li­tion be­gins on the stand for the 2011 Rugby World Cup.

Re­de­vel­op­ment project man­ager Bruce Han­vey says the Spring­boks could es­cape from the mem­bers area they slept in the night be­fore the test through an up­stairs trap­door, into the chang­ing rooms and out of the ground.

Holes were also in­stalled in the ad­join­ing walls of the Eden Park trust board of­fice and other ar­eas so of­fi­cials had ac­cess to the es­cape route.

“Next door was the cash room and ticket of­fice, so if there was any prob­lem they could es­cape with the play­ers,” Mr Han­vey says.

While Mr Han­vey doesn’t know whether the stand could have sur­vived any ex­plo­sions by the pro­test­ers, he is sure it would have lasted against an­other at­tack that took place dur­ing the match it­self.

“It was flour bomb proof,” he says.

Rugby World Cup min­is­ter Clay­ton Cos­grove, who in­spected the trap­doors, says the re­de­vel­op­ment of the park is a “piv­otal part” of the cup prepa­ra­tion.

But he was also quick to point out that Eden Park is just one part of a na­tion­wide ef­fort to make the tour­na­ment a suc­cess.

Mr Cos­grove also ex­pressed mixed emo­tions as he op­er­ated a dig­ger that ripped up part of the South Stand’s lower level.

“As a Cantabrian I have very in­ter­est­ing feel­ings about the de­struc­tion of Eden Park.”

The first phase of de­mo­li­tion is sched­uled to take be­tween six and eight weeks, while the East­ern Ter­races and Pana­sonic Stand will go in mid-2009.

Con­struc­tion of the new stand could start as early as mid-Septem­ber.

Photo: JA­SON OXENHAM

Es­cape route: Eden Park re­de­vel­op­ment project man­ager Bruce Han­vey checks out one of the se­cret doors that could have been used to get out of the South Stand in a hurry dur­ing the 1981 Spring­bok tour.

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