New Zealand stadium chock-a-block with fans


New Zealand Eden Park back with fans Image: Eden Park

With New Zealand tasting success in totally wiping out coronavirus, it became one of the first countries last weekend to welcome fans back in full strength to sporting events.

The game of rugby made its return to New Zealand full house with fans cheering their favorite clubs in person. There is no bar on fans attending games in the island country now as it has come out of the shadow of coronavirus. The who’s who of the world descended on Eden Park on June 14th to be part of the action for this long anticipated sold-out event, as Kiwis celebrated the return of the winter season of live sport in style.

The A-listers included Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, Elon Musk, Tyson Fury, Taylor Swift, Steven Adams, Carole Baskin, Dame Julie Andrews, Cristiano Ronaldo, Kylie Jenner and the country’s own Dr Ashley Bloomfield – Director-General of Health, as the Auckland Blues took on the Wellington Hurricanes, which ended in a 37-27 win for the latter in the Super Rugby Aotearoa.

On June 14th, Auckland’s Eden Park (New Zealand’s largest sports stadium) was a sea of humanity with more than 40,000 supporters filling the stands.

The June 13th game between the Otago Highlanders and the Waikato Chiefs was graced by an estimated 20,000 spectators at the Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin, New Zealand.

The Super Rugby Aotearoa competition is a 10-week competition featuring the five New Zealand Super Rugby teams – the Blues, the Chiefs, the Hurricanes, the Crusaders and the Highlanders.

After winning its battle against the dreaded coronavirus, New Zealand has been able to lift all of its coronavirus shutdown mandates. On Monday, health officials in New Zealand said the last known COVID-19 infected person had also recovered. The country, which has a total population of about five million, had just over 1,500 confirmed COVID-19 cases and fatalities stood at 22.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern placed the country under a rigid lockdown for four weeks, starting on March 25th.

Sports have returned in other countries too, but mostly sans fans. Taiwan’s professional baseball league (CPBL) started its season with empty ballparks, but is gradually allowing fans to attend games, with strict social distancing guidelines in place and only up to a 50 percent capacity.

Kiwis were among the first around the globe to return following months of canceled events and deserted stands.

Eden Park authorities stated that the stadium received an outpouring of support from locals, members and partners during the nationwide lockdown and its staff worked through the sweat of their brows to ensure a successful return of rugby.

Remarked Eden Park Chief Executive Officer Nick Sautner, “The health of staff, athletes and patrons remains our priority and our team has played a key role in developing ‘the Covid Code’ for Government. Following the move to Alert Level 1, a number of additional measures will be in place at Eden Park such as sanitizer stations, hygiene promotion signage and additional cleaning of frequently used surfaces. The Park’s QR code will be available for those utilizing the NZ COVID Tracer App.”

Fans were encouraged to purchase online tickets to prevent queues in the ticket window and make certain they didn’t miss a second of the action when the Blues faced the Hurricanes. ‘Fans on the Field’ allowed sport lovers, young and old, the opportunity to walk on the hallowed turf post-match.

A business confidence survey conducted recently revealed that six out of 10 people believe rugby resuming at Eden Park is a sign of life returning to normal which was thrown out of gear in the country due to the coronavirus menace.

Sautner added, “New Zealand is a global leader in tourism, agriculture and film, and now being able to experience live sport back in stadia together again following the worldwide pandemic. We’re hoping to welcome back 50,000 of our team of 5 million who all played a key role in eliminating COVID-19. A special thank you to all Kiwis who are just as excited as we are to return to watching live sport and entertainment at New Zealand’s national stadium.”

The stadium which was operating with a skeleton workforce during the pandemic was challenged to pivot outside of their normal roles during the lockdown and consider how Eden Park can continue to give back to its community whilst creating alternative revenue streams. During this period, Eden Park won an international ‘Product Innovation’ award for its Staydium Glamping at the UK’s Stadium Business Awards. The unique accommodation experience launched a year ago where two custom-designed domes sit in the north-eastern corner and overlook the hallowed turf.

The stadium will play a crucial role in boosting and shaping Aotearoa’s economy through future events including its chock-a-block 2021 calendar which will see the ICC Women’s Cricket World Cup, the 2021 Rugby World Cup and Te Matatini being staged at Eden Park.

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