Rugby Legends’ Dinners
14th December 2010 by Andrew Needs, Ottawa | No Comments
I make absolutely no apologies for this being my third or fourth blog on the topic of rugby and the 2011 Rugby World Cup in New Zealand. When it is the event on the nation’s calendar, both as a sporting and cultural spectacle, but also an opportunity to showcase New Zealand to the world for business, investment, tourism and innovation ….. it is a big big deal.
We have just completed a collaboration with Rugby Canada, in the form of three Gala Dinners. The venues were Ottawa, Toronto and Vancouver (275 guests at each). For Rugby Canada they were fundraising events and an opportunity to promote a sport that, while it has a vibrant and enthusiastic following, struggles for oxygen in an (ice) hockey mad nation. For us, New Zealand Inc in Canada, we were very happy to co-host the events as an opportunity to promote New Zealand 2011. Our main contribution to the Toronto and Vancouver evenings was the attendance of All Black great and RWC Ambassador, John Kirwan. John joined four Canadian rugby legends (and in Toronto, Scotland and British Lions great Gavin Hasting) on stage for a question and answer session. John also addressed the dinners directly to speak about what New Zealand has in store for visitors in 2011. A significant part of John’s message was to the business audience: New Zealand is open for business, the World Cup is a fabulous opportunity for Canadian investors, entrepreneurs and traders to get down to New Zealand, have a great time and do some business while there. John flagged a number of the programmes designed to support visitors with business on their agenda.
On meeting John it was clear to me early on that the energy he brought to his ten years as an All Black have not diminished since his retirement from playing. John’s role as a 2011 Rugby World Cup Ambassador is voluntary and unpaid. It is out of passion for his sport and his country that he makes himself available for such events. John’s schedule to make these two dinners, while meeting his obligations as Coach of the national team of Japan and commitments to his family in Italy, was punishing. John is a wonderful Ambassador for rugby and New Zealand. John will of course be in New Zealand come September/October next year with team Japan. I think I am on fairly safe ground in wishing both Japan and Canada “almost every success” in next year’s competition.