New Zealand has run what is probably the most successful Rugby World Cup ever. Not because New Zealand won (though that does help) but because of the way New Zealanders, in general, responded to it. Sure, there were the people who were a bit dickish with their refusal to be part of it, or the people who made ignorant comments about how it was a bad idea to have the cup here because it will increase domestic violence rates, but in general, New Zealanders really got behind this world cup.
Last night, I went into the city for the game. I went down to Aotea Square as all of the official fan zones were closed at that point. But the atmosphere was electric. I have never been more proud to sing the national anthem. It was brilliant in every way. The game was brilliant, and while I was suffering from the worst dead leg from sitting on the ground at the square, it was so worth it. A proud New Zealander most definitely.
What was truly amazing though was the response after the game. I have personally never seen anything like it. Thousands and thousands of people took to Queen Street. From Aotea Square looking down toward Britomart, all you could see was people. As far as I know, no official count had been given, but there would have had to be at least 200,000 if the parade today had 250,000. Never have I seen anything like it in this country. It was almost like the scenes in Libya over the past few days since the death of Muammar Gaddafi. Jubilation. Just an amazing feeling of success. Because as much as we weren’t on the field, it was a day for New Zealand, not just the All Blacks. 24 years is a long time, particularly when we’re talking about the sport most New Zealanders either love, or love to hate.
What I didn’t love is the amount of French bashing I saw. When I was first walking down Queen Street, I started with the “four more years” chant when I saw French supporters. But when I started seeing people going up in the faces of French supporters and saying “f**k you, you f**king French prick. Go back to Paris, you f**king loser”, I stopped. They didn’t need anything more put on them, even if it’s something as small as “four more years”. I am amazed how the majority of French supporters just stood there, smiling. I guess they were amazed by the sights they were seeing down Queen Street too. But that abusive behaviour is not what New Zealanders should be doing. We’ve had an amazing tournament here because how we’ve welcomed the approximate 120,000 people to our country, supported their teams with them and helped make their stay as pleasant as possible.
New Zealand was definitely, in general, the place to be over the past month. However, not all of New Zealand responded – look at Hamilton’s no-show attempt at supporting the cup. They didn’t even have a screen up for the opening ceremony or first All Blacks game. And now, people from Hamilton have the tenacity to say the All Blacks should be having a parade down Victoria Street. Hamilton was a disappointment.
Right now, I am very proud to be an Aucklander and very proud to be a New Zealander. Oh, and very proud to be a Harbour supporter, given Tony Woodcock scored the try for the All Blacks last night. For those who don’t follow New Zealand rugby and didn’t guess, he plays for North Harbour.