What Were They Thinking?

The giant inflatable rugby ball that is now a Christchurch bar appears to be the only good use of one of several pieces of forgotten but costly pieces of World Cup memorabilia that seemed a good idea at the time.

The $13m giant inflatable rugby ball that toured the world promoting the event has found a permanent home in Christchurch. It was sitting in five shipping containers in Kumeu when nightclub owner Richard Bethune bought it at tender.

It was, he says, sighing, a logistical drama amid a sea of red tape before the October opening. "All the professional wankers, for want of a better word, won't make a decision. We had 13 different fire engineers to sign this thing off. And in Christchurch, it has the lowest capacity of anywhere in the world: everywhere else it's allowed 280 people. Here, we're only allowed 142 inside. It's pathetic."

Bethune heard that the giant rugby ball - used in that rather weird opening ceremony in which Jonah Lomu dressed as a 1930s pimp - was "lying on its side" in a Christchurch storage yard, having been originally gifted to the city by tournament organisers to sit in the Hagley Park fanzone. So he bought it. All up, he says, he's spent "lots and lots, plus lots", much more than he thought he would.

"It owes in the millions, and not just one of them." The Town Ball is now trading seven nights a week as a bar, restaurant, nightclub.

Unlike the infamous $2 million Waka Maori - tagged the "tupperwaka" by disbelieving Labour MP Shane Jones - which is dismantled and dwelling in eight storage containers, and not the only expensive piece of memorabilia left in storage since the Rugby World Cup charabanc left town.

Jones described the waka, which opened for just 17 days of the World Cup, as a "nauseating" expense. Maori Affairs Minister Pita Sharples said that even in that brief time it had drawn $9m in tourist dollars and would go on to "represent all of us in its travels around the globe".

But since the tournament ended, the waka - which was given to the Auckland tribe Ngati Whatua o Orakei - hasn't set sail.

Not for want of trying, says Ngati Whatua's Ngarimu Blair. Initially, the New Zealand Olympic Committee was interested in using it as a venue for Kiwis in London for the Olympics. Instead, they chose a barbecue. "Which caught fire. Our waka was fire-rated. It might have done better," Blair says.

Since then, he says, they've tried to find an overseas festival or trade show "where it could live again".

Interest from Malaysia, China, even Wellington, has yet to bear fruit. "We're still working on those opportunities. Unfortunately, none of them have come to fruition yet," Blair says.

The internal displays still exist. Ngati Whatua have talked to Eden Park about showcasing them there. "This is the year to have something happen," says Blair. "It is such an impressive piece of architecture [it deserves to be seen]."The latest idea is for the government to use it as a supporter base during the America's Cup in San Francisco. Blair says setting it up permanently somewhere in Auckland is also an option. "But we would dearly like it to go overseas and promote Maori culture and New Zealand business."

Jones isn't impressed. "I've got a lot of affection for the kaumatua of Ngati Whatua, but the next generation coming through has a lot to learn," he says. "The tupperwaka was like the mayfly: short lifespan. It doesn't surprise me that it has been mothballed."

THE CLOUD, that wiggling worm that sits on Auckland's Queens Wharf and hosted the World Cup's Party Central, cost $9.8m, and was, said World Cup Minister Murray McCully, a chance to showcase our country as a place for "ingenuity, knowledge, investment, talent, as well as tourism and culture".

Since the tournament ended, it has been used for just 133 days; events as varied as functions, trade shows, an event base for Rally New Zealand and the triathlon world championships, weddings, even the world's biggest spin class.

"A good portion of the events were in the second half of the calendar year, as there was the added impact in the first half of uncertainty around the future of The Cloud," says Luke Henshall, spokesman for Auckland council- owned venue operators Waterfront Auckland.

It's now staying in Auckland and 51 events - totalling 71 days - are booked in between now and July.

It has cost the council $378,000 to operate The Cloud but its numbers are bundled into Queens Wharf as a whole and it is "close to breaking even" after turning a profit for the first time last month.

Auckland council has yet to find a new use for a giant World Cup countdown clock, costing $120,000, that adorned Queen Elizabeth Square, near the city's waterfront, for a year before the tournament. A council spokeswoman, Charmaine Ngarimu, says the clock is in storage, and has been since the World Cup, but might be wheeled out for the 2015 Fifa Under-20 World Cup.

Those big towers of temporary seats that adorned Eden Park are most likely in France now, says the park's chief executive, David Kennedy. They were leased from a French company, which sent them to the London Olympics. But, of course, Eden Park still struggles to pay for its permanent improvements. Kennedy says the park is covering loan repayments, but cannot eat into its significant debts without a big increase in events.

Despite your correspondent having occasionally seen racks of World Cup gear selling for $5 a go at Rebel Sport, there is no heaving mountain of memorabilia, says Ross Munro. His company, Sportfolio, held the merchandising rights and he says he'd flogged almost all licensed clothing within a month of the tournament's conclusion.

Nor is there a lost paddock somewhere in which a mound of scrum machines and old tackle bags quietly rot. The New Zealand Rugby Union says all the extra equipment demanded by competing teams was donated to Pacific Islands nations.

- © Fairfax NZ News