THE LIKELY cost to Auckland ratepayers of the Rugby World Cup has now been put at $103 million and rising. That includes $3 million-plus for the privilege of acquiring the extra three matches transferred from quake-stricken Christchurch.
I’m not sure whether the figure also takes into account the staggering $3.07 million cost of erecting a proposed giant TV screen in Aotea Square – a project the former Auckland City Council approved on the basis of an airy-fairy estimate of $1.65 million.
Isn’t it funny how often that happens? Politicians and officials get sucked in by grandiose projects on the basis of optimistic cost projections, then meekly agree to pay up when the costs blow out, as they invariably do. What the heck – it’s only ratepayers’ money.
Expect to see these shenanigans replicated around the country, albeit on a less spectacular scale than in Auckland, as the Rugby World Cup nears.
In the same week as Auckland’s big-screen blowout was revealed, it was announced that Hamilton ratepayers would have to fork out an extra $410,000 because someone decided the floodlights at Waikato Stadium weren’t up to RWC standard – and all this for just one match, since the other two Hamilton fixtures will be played during the day.
There’s a pattern here. A massive PR blitz has seduced us all into thinking the RWC is such a wondrous event that we should not only swallow the massive bill – never mind that the country’s broke – but also put up with an unconscionable suppression of normal commercial competition on the ground that the interests of the precious sponsors must be protected. (The latest news is that even fund-raising sausage sizzles will be forbidden from the “clean zones” around RWC venues.)
We’re a stadium of four million, all right – four million captive suckers, comprehensively being shafted by an unholy alliance of powerful sports administrators, sycophantic politicians and hard-nosed multinational corporates that probably don’t give a toss about rugby.
First published in the Curmudgeon column, The Dominion Post, April 26.