Quake-damaged Christchurch receives World Cup boost

WELLINGTON Wed Aug 14, 2013 8:09am BST

A small flag can be seen in the middle of the severely damaged rugby stadium in the New Zealand city of Christchurch March 11, 2013. REUTERS/David Gray

A small flag can be seen in the middle of the severely damaged rugby stadium in the New Zealand city of Christchurch March 11, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/David Gray

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WELLINGTON (Reuters) - Christchurch's chances of hosting World Cup matches moved a step closer when a proposal to upgrade a section of a public park into an international-standard venue were given the all clear by a New Zealand court on Wednesday.

New Zealand's second largest city had been provisionally awarded three pool games for the 2015 tournament, including the opener, last month by organisers pending the outcome of the Environment Court decision.

The city's previous multi-sports venue Lancaster Park was wrecked by the February 22, 2011 earthquake that devastated the city and killed just under 200 people and local cricket authorities submitted plans for the development of a venue on Hagley Park, which borders the central city.

The court, however, placed several conditions on the use of the ground, including restrictions on the number of match days and removal of part of the lighting towers at the end of the cricket season.

Canterbury Cricket would also need to be granted a lease by the local council, although the World Cup fixtures would not be included as part of the match day restrictions.

"This decision is positive not only for hosting Cricket World Cup but also for the sport of cricket and our city in future years," Canterbury Cricket chief executive Lee Germon said in a statement.

"While we are very pleased with this decision, we know that the matter now needs to go before the Council to consider whether to grant a lease to Canterbury Cricket for the proposed pavilion and light towers.

"We are obviously hopeful the Council will approve this."

Opponents could still appeal the decision, which could delay the construction of facilities needed for the World Cup.

Germon had told Reuters earlier that it could take about 12 months to get the facility completed and he would want to test the matchday procedures before the World Cup opener between New Zealand and Sri Lanka on February 14, 2015.

World Cup organisers welcomed the decision.

"This is an important step forward in terms of realising our vision of having Christchurch play a key role in the Cricket World Cup," Cricket World Cup 2015's Head of New Zealand Therese Walsh said.

"Since announcing Christchurch as a host city, we have received tremendous support from within the city and around the world, and I'm sure today's news will be equally well received."

(Reporting by Greg Stutchbury; Editing by John O'Brien)

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