Giant Rugby Ball scores points in London
27 Nov 2008
New Zealand's giant rugby ball has seen plenty of action at its new home beside London's famous Tower Bridge earning warm praise from crowds who've braved cold temperatures to visit the Kiwi icon.
The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh, London's Mayor Boris Johnson, New Zealand Prime Minister John Key and the All Blacks all visited the ball on opening day at Potters Fields Park.
Dramatic opening ceremony
London-based Maori performing arts troupe, Manaia, included local school children, and NZ popular opera singer Elizabeth Marvelly in a dramatic opening ceremony which stopped London commuters in their tracks on Monday morning (Nov 25).
The giant 25m by 12m high inflatable ball has been positioned between City Hall and Tower Bridge to raise New Zealand's profile, and is the latest phase in Tourism New Zealand's campaign to woo British travellers to visit the country now and in the run up to the 2011 Rugby World Cup.
The ball was last seen in Paris during the 2007 Rugby World Cup when more than 138 million people viewed or visited it beside the Eiffel Tower.
Prime Minister John Key said the next Rugby World Cup was going to be a massive event for New Zealand and the rugby ball was an important promotion for New Zealand and the event.
Throughout this week the ball has provided a unique setting for New Zealand promotions with corporate functions showcasing New Zealand wines, food and entertainment.
Thousands of members of the public have also visited the ball to enjoy the state of the art visual presentation. Kiwi ingenuity involved in the actual structure is a drawcard as well as the 360-degree full emersion video technology that takes visitors on a dramatic journey around New Zealand's top spots. Images have also been projected on the exterior of the giant ball.
Tourism New Zealand chief executive George Hickton said the ball gave visitors a taste of what they can expect when they travel to New Zealand, showcasing the country's stunning landscape, whilst revealing a world-class talent for innovation.
"The Rugby Ball Venue is another phase in our new $7.3 million UK campaign which we hope will stimulate interest in a holiday to New Zealand both now and in the run up to when New Zealand hosts the Rugby World Cup in 2011," Mr Hickton said.
The UK is New Zealand’s second largest tourist market with over 289,247 visitor arrivals in the year to September 2008.
The ball's presence in London coincided with the All Blacks Grand Slam Tour and invited guests were entertained at a special function inside the ball when the team played England on November 29.
On December 1 International Rugby Board officials, international rugby captains and key media will attend a function announcing the pool draw for the 2011 Rugby World Cup to be held in New Zealand.
Large crowds visited the ball during the weekend. It ball closes to the public from Monday (01.12.08). It will then be dismantled and packed away into containers awaiting shipment to its next, as yet undisclosed, destination.
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