Hands up Kiwis for Rugby World Cup
15 Jul 2010
A nationwide road show to recruit volunteers for the 2011 Rugby World Cup has ended with a strong indication that New Zealand's promised "stadium of four million" hosts is on the way to becoming reality.
More than 5000 volunteers will be needed when New Zealand welcomes 85,000 international visitors for the Rugby World Cup next year, and already more than a thousand people have signed up to be part of the biggest event ever to be held in the country.
Volunteers will be needed for a number of different roles from working in the back rooms of stadiums assisting with catering, sports presentation and ceremonies to helping visitors at hotels, fan zones and transport hubs.
There were 38 public forums as part of the five week RWC roadshow which covered 25 destinations throughout New Zealand.
Volunteer programme manager Brendon Ward said more than 3500 people turned up at the various forums, to hear what volunteering would involve and he was thrilled with the response.
"We were very happy with the quality of interested parties and their enthusiasm. There was a dose of realism about it and we always wanted this to be about what to expect, and what not to expect - like free tickets," he said.
The intention always had been to weed out people who thought volunteering would give them free match tickets and, while some had left the forums disappointed, many had been enthused by the chance to be part of the event, he said.
A lot of people went away inspired and it was hoped they would pass on the information and sentiments to others, said Ward.
Main centre response
The greatest response was in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch - which had been expected as they were the main centres where most games would be played, he said.
Interested volunteers who attended the forums were able to sign up immediately but general registration opened yesterday (14.07.2010). Applications close on 31 August.
Ward says it is estimated that 95% of volunteers will be New Zealand residents or Kiwis living abroad, but there was an opportunity for people from overseas to register. However in terms of training and understanding roles, that would be a limited number.
Ambassador Michael Jones
The drive for volunteers is being led by former All Black and RWC 2011 ambassador Michael Jones who says it’s important to find the right candidates.
"Volunteering takes a special kind of person and the characteristics are the same as a top rugby player; motivation, commitment, hard work and ultimately passion."
Michael Jones says the tournament will succeed through the efforts of all New Zealanders: "We will be a nation of four million hosts and volunteers will play an important role in helping the country to welcome our guests."
The team of 5,000-plus volunteers will be the face of New Zealand, on the ground, at stadiums and out in the streets, from one end of the country to the other, says Jones.
"Only people who are passionate about their country and willing to give their time and energy to support the event, need apply," he said.
Once registration closes, volunteers will be screened and interviews will begin in October.
RWC chief executive Martin Snedden says volunteering won’t be glamorous work.
"Much of it is hard slog but it is a brilliant way to have a direct involvement in New Zealand’s biggest ever event."
No free match tickets would be handed out, but volunteers would be the "shop front" of the tournament, playing a vital role in enhancing the experience of visitors and helping shape what visitors thought of New Zealand, Snedden said.
The uniforms to be worn by volunteers may not be unveiled until later this year, and will only be issued two to three weeks before the tournament.
However Prime Minister John Key has indicated that New Zealand’s iconic silver fern will be prominently displayed.
As well as good candidates for general assistance, there is also a requirement for volunteers with specialist skills such as the command of a foreign language ... and in the Wairarapa the hunt is on to find anyone who can speak Georgian.
The Georgian cup team is to be based in the area next year and while 32 people have enlisted as potential volunteers, there are no fluent Georgian speakers amongst them.
Team Georgia will train and stay a week in the Wairarapa with team hosting alone expected to rack up nearly 5000 commercial bed nights in the region.
Brendon Ward says that as well as the need for volunteers who speak foreign languages and can interpret, there’s also a requirement for people who know how to run a game of rugby.
In Nelson, where the Italian RWC team will be based, 125 locals attended the nationwide road show - many wanting to sign up on the spot.
Stoke resident Ella Porter said volunteering for RWC 2011 was a "once in a lifetime opportunity" and would give her the chance to meet a lot of tourists, and "do something really cool."
Others left the meeting saying they were "really excited" about showing off Nelson to the world including local residents Diane Hodgson and Barbara Bird.
"I want to be involved in Nelson, full stop. I’m glad to be a New Zealander and proud of Nelson," said Bird.
"It’s so exciting, how could you not?" said Hodgson.
Snedden says it’s important for visitors to leave New Zealand with the best memories because there’s no better advertisement than the word of mouth endorsement of happy visitors.
"All of us have a part to play. We are all volunteers in one sense. That's why we have dubbed New Zealand the ‘stadium of four million’ hosts".
"We love our rugby and the All Blacks, but they can only play seven matches at most out of the 48 to be played. There are 19 other teams that will visit here and not many will come with an army of fans to cheer them on.
"We need our stadia to be full of fans barracking for one of the sides. There is nothing like that roar of a crowd to spur teams on. It will also make a real difference to the way we Kiwis enjoy the tournament."
If everyone did their bit to welcome visitors wherever they encountered them, and also made the effort to take part in some way, then New Zealand would have made the most of this once in a lifetime opportunity, Snedden said.
i-SITE visitor information
New Zealand’s i-SITE visitor information network is to play a key role in the RWC 2011 volunteer programme, helping with recruitment, training and providing services during the tournament.
i-SITE centres provide an alternative registration point for people who don't have access to online registration and information, and they will train volunteers responsible for providing visitor information to rugby fans.
"Volunteers will be trained to proactively guide rugby fans to i-SITEs to ensure sales opportunities for accommodation, attractions and other visitor activities are maximised," Tourism New Zealand i-Site manager, Andrew Leslie said.
"There'll also be a regular line of communication between i-SITEs and volunteer teams during the tournament to ensure they are deployed where they are most needed."
i-SITEs will also help promote the nationwide festival that is being planned around RWC 2011 - tailoring event information to visitors' specific interests and travel plans, and distributing festival brochures.
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