02 HELEN CLARK
After missing out on co-hosting the 2003 World Cup with Australia there was a school of thought that New Zealand may have missed the window to ever host the tournament again.
The scale of the World Cup had become such that there was a feeling it had outgrown the capacity of a small country such as New Zealand to successfully host.
The tournament is the main source of income for World Rugby and they have to maximise returns so they can continue to invest in the development of the game.
The bigger the stadia in the host country, the better. More ticket sales means more revenue, and proximity to populous markets in a similar time zone makes a huge difference in regard to potential broadcast revenue. Then there are the logistics and infrastructure of the host nation to consider.
In 2005, when Japan, South Africa and New Zealand were all bidding to host the 2011 event, the latter was seen as the least likely to win.
It didn’t have scale and was too isolated according to those who felt it was time the tournament broke new ground and went to Japan, with its enormous economy and stadiums.
But, despite being financially challenged, New Zealand put together a compelling bid, the key to which was the support of the government.
Not only did they underwrite the tournament – giving World Rugby a guarantee about the level of return they would receive – Prime Minister Helen Clark skilfully wined and dined delegates before the vote and then gave an impassioned and endearing speech as part of the bid.
It is believed she spoke to the Argentine delegate in Spanish the night before the vote and regaled others with her easy charm and intellect.
Her role in winning votes was critical and the World Cup may never have come to New Zealand if it hadn’t been for her.
“I just hope the All Blacks are in it,” she would say a few years after the bid had been won. “The feature of the New Zealand bid which carried great weight was the strong backing it had from the government. New Zealand is a small country. Government support is essential for mounting a major international sports event of this kind, as has been seen in the past with the America’s Cup and the Commonwealth Games.”
CHARM SCHOOL World Rugby was super impressed by the role the New Zealand government played in supporting the 2011 World Cup bid.