Christchurch earthquake shakes QEII Stadium's future

Federations News

New Zealand’s iconic QEII Stadium could become another victim of the horrific Christchurch earthquake. Shut since the February 22 quake, which devastated the city and left thousands of people homeless and a third of the central business district’s 1500 buildings destroyed or set for demolition, QEII’s future is uncertain.

All Christchurch’s sporting facilities have been closed and the newly erected Deans Stand at the city’s main rugby stadium in also under a cloud. The stadium is slated to host round matches, quarter-finals and a semifinal of this year’s Rugby World Cup.

QEII is close to the hearts of FINA folk since its emergence in the early 1970s as the athletics and swimming venue for the 1974 Commonwealth Games. Millions of people have flowed through the gates to the aquatic venue, which underwent a major rebuild in the early 2000s to host the FINA World Masters Championships in 2002.

The indoor 50m competition pool was dug up and replaced by a recreation pool and a fresh 50m pool built alongside. The water polo/diving pool, which hosted the 1988 FINA World Cup for women’s water polo, was damaged in September’s earthquake and sustained even more damage in the February shake.

The newer 50m pool, host to last year’s FINA World Cup, again for women, is also part of the closure. That closure means the Asia-Oceania round of the FINA World League for water polo will now not be staged in New Zealand in May. Australia has been asked to pick up both of the legs.

I remember travelling to Christchurch in the South Island from the North Island for nearly 10 years straight for the annual national water polo club championships during the Christmas-New Year break and fondly remember the pool.

Being in the pool during the World Cup in August only weeks before the quake last year has left mixed emotions. Some of my family lives in Christchurch and my brother was badly shaken by the event and much damage done to the inside of his house, as well as walls tumbling in the backyard.

Like many Cantabrians, as people from the province of Canterbury are known, which Christchurch is the capital, he was in a daze for a week as the death and destruction surrounded him.

Residing just 1500m from the CBD, life was disrupted badly for him as many hours of television coverage have shown. To the sporting public of Christchurch, we at FINA offer our support and hopes for a return to some sort of normality in the near future.

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