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Warren Palmer, of Dunedin, assesses Forsyth Barr Stadium from the point of view of the disabled.
The World Cup is already a distant memory. What remains?
A shiny cup, based on a marketing myth (if you don't know that William Ellis did not invent rugby by picking up the ball, I wonder where you've been). And I shall probably never touch it. There's also a lingering feeling of goodwill which is slowly fading because of the election. And we in Dunedin have a stadium whose merits are debatable. It certainly is grand, and I recommend to anybody that they should go there at least once, even if they are opposed to it on principle.
However, the effect on our rates will be felt for some years, and it may very well stifle growth in the city for years to come. On the other hand, it may also stimulate growth. Apparently, when international events are held (such as the Sir Elton John concert), the city benefits through "flow-on" effects. Only time will tell.
Whether it becomes the asset which the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff is reputed to be is also debatable.
What has the Forsyth Barr Stadium become from the point of view of the disabled?
This is my chief interest. I have been to four rugby matches, one Otago game and three World Cup games, each time sitting in the area set aside for the disabled in the North Stand. (As yet I cannot comment on the seating in the South Stand.)My first comment concerns access.
For the World Cup games, I was let off by my taxi as close as possible, though still a little distance away. For one of the games, my taxi was kindly allowed access to the covered area owned by Wrightson, for which I remain very grateful. For the Otago game, I was let off virtually at the gate. On all four occasions, access into the ground and stand was fine. So there are no worries there.
Secondly, the view. Magnificent.
Slightly elevated, and very close to the action. Indeed, during the World Cup, many able-bodied patrons abandoned their seats and watched the action standing behind the disabled people and their carers. They preferred to stand there rather than sit in their seats.
Fine. I "went" once, mainly to test what was available, and to me it seemed perfectly adequate, at least for someone in my condition.
However, my one concern is the temperature. There are three open entrances behind the disabled area in the North Stand, and the cold wind tunnels through. After the Otago game, during which I was extremely cold, I came "prepared" to the extent that I wore two pairs of socks, two trousers and tights (!), two jerseys and a top, and a coat and hat. To top it off I had a blanket. After one game in particular, my wife commented afterwards that my feet were still like ice.
My son watched that game from the North Stand, and he said at halftime (when he came down to the disabled area for a chat) that it was much warmer up there than in the disabled area.
Dry the stadium is, but disabled people couldn't call it warm.
I shall go back once more, specifying the South Stand, as I wish to test it. If it is as cold, I shall not be back, and if it is warmer, I shall only go to events where I can sit in the South.
At least then I'll be able to say I'm a real Southern Man.