Colourful Maori Welcome for Rugby World Cup Trophy in Akld
2 September 2011
Webb Ellis Cup to Auckland in
The Webb Ellis Cup, the tangible symbol of world rugby supremacy, arrived in style in Auckland today on board an Emirates Airbus A380 superjumbo to an unforgettable welcome from a traditional Maori haka group ahead of this year’s Rugby World Cup tournament.
The Trophy, carried on its final journey from International Rugby Board (IRB) headquarters in Dublin, Ireland, will now go into lockdown until the Final at Eden Park on the night of Sunday, 23rd October.
Emirates, Worldwide Partner of Rugby World Cup 2011, displayed the Cup en route at special events in London, Dubai and Sydney, before it arrived today on a double-decker A380 specially decorated for the occasion with a Rugby World Cup-themed decal and logo.
Gary Chapman, Emirates’ President Group Services & dnata, said on arrival in Auckland, “Today saw a truly unforgettable welcome for the Webb Ellis Cup as it completed its final journey to New Zealand. Emirates is proud to have been able to bring the Trophy all the way from London, via Dubai, on our flagship aircraft, the Airbus A380.”
Mr Chapman continued, “Part of our sponsorship philosophy is to give sports fans around the world the chance to be part of the action, and we have certainly done that on this journey. Rugby fans have been able to get close to the Trophy in London, in our home base of Dubai, in Sydney and we have now delivered it to Auckland for the start of what looks set to be a fascinating Tournament.”
After touchdown, the aircraft taxied through the traditional welcome of a water-cannon arch from airport fire engines before arriving at the terminal’s dedicated A380 pier.
To the distinctive sound of a conch-shell horn, IRB chairman Bernard Lapasset from France, accompanied by Gary Chapman, and preceded by two Emirates cabin crew members, descended an open set of steps with the Trophy.
After an exchange of karanga (ceremonial greetings calls), a haka powhiri (welcome haka) was performed by a Maori group comprising Customs officers.
Mr Lapasset then placed the Webb Ellis Cup on a plinth, before exchanging greetings with New Zealand Prime Minister John Key and other dignitaries.
Accompanied by a waiata, the groups then made their way into the Auckland Airport terminal building for a gathering and media conference in the new 220-seat Emirates Lounge for premium passengers.
The media conference was preceded in the lounge by a karakia (prayer) from a Maori elder.
Emirates was the first sponsor to sign up as a Worldwide Partner for Rugby World Cup 2011, and has a strong affiliation with Rugby, including:
• Principal partner of the Rugby World Cup Sevens 2009, which took place in Dubai at Emirates’ purpose built sporting venue, ‘The Sevens.’ The tournament was shown in over 200 countries via 29 broadcasters.
• Sponsor of four HSBC IRB Sevens World Series events - in Dubai, South Africa, London and Edinburgh.
• Shirt sponsors of the England and Samoa Sevens teams and the Emirates Western Force (Australia) Super 15 team. Official Airline of the USA national teams.
• Sponsors of the IRB referees and match officials.
About Rugby World Cup 2011
Rugby World Cup is the crown jewel of the sport and a prominent global property – with television coverage of Rugby World Cup 2007 spanning more than 200 territories, reaching a cumulative audience of 4 billion viewers. Rugby World Cup 2011 is being held in New Zealand for the first time since the inaugural event in 1987. Teams representing 20 nations will compete in 48 matches across 12 Host Cities between 9 September and 23 October 2011. The Final will be held at Auckland's historic Eden Park.