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Fifa Women's World Cup opening game to go ahead, Fan Festival to remain shut

Bonnie Jansen,
Publish Date
Thu, 20 Jul 2023, 3:51pm

Fifa Women's World Cup opening game to go ahead, Fan Festival to remain shut

Bonnie Jansen,
Publish Date
Thu, 20 Jul 2023, 3:51pm

The Fifa Women’s World Cup opening match tonight between New Zealand and Norway at Eden Park will continue as planned, but the Auckland Fan Festival at The Cloud will stay closed.

Prime Minister Chris Hipkins and Sports Minister Grant Robertson confirmed the event would go ahead despite the fatal shooting in Auckland’s CBD this morning after a gunman stormed a building being renovated near Britomart.

The 24-year-old gunman - who was wearing an electronic monitoring bracelet - had entered the building site in lower Queen St and opened fire, killing two people.

Police have confirmed the shooter is dead and there was no wider security threat.

Auckland has welcomed thousands of international tourists for the Fifa Women’s World Cup hosted across New Zealand and Australia. The incident occurred metres away from the Fifa Fan Festival that was set to open midday on Thursday at the Cloud on Quay St.

It was announced on Thursday afternoon that the Fifa Fan Festival at The Cloud in Auckland’s waterfront will remain shut for another day.

Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei, the Office of the Mayor and Auckland Council have decided, that out of deep respect for those who lost their lives and those affected in downtown Auckland today, to cancel festivities located at the nearby Queens Wharf associated with the Fifa Women’s Football World Cup for this evening.

Director of arts, entertainment and events at Tātaki Auckland Unlimited Richard Clarke says the city is shocked and saddened by the events that occurred in downtown Auckland this morning.

The Fan Festival will now open to the public from 12pm on Friday 21 July, with a packed day of entertainment and a triple header of matches on the giant screen kicking off from 2.30pm.

Robertson confirmed at a press conference in Wellington this morning all World Cup events would continue as planned.

He had spoken to the president and secretary general of Fifa, who had passed on their condolences. Robertson said the police had been embedded within the Fifa structure as part of the normal structure of the tournament.

Prime Minister Chris Hipkins said: “Clearly with the Fifa World Cup kicking off this evening there are a lot of eyes on Auckland.

“The Government has spoken to Fifa organisers this morning and the tournament will proceed as planned.

Chile fans and supporters. Photo / Andrew Cornaga www.photosport.nz

Chile fans and supporters. Photo / Andrew Cornaga www.photosport.nz

”I want to reiterate that there is no wider national security threat.

“This appears to be the actions of an individual.”

A number of teams are staying near the incident area but were all safe, Robertson said.

The New Zealand football team, who are staying at the Pullman Hotel on Princes St, said they were shocked by the incident.

“We can confirm that all of the Football Ferns team and staff are safe but we will not be able to comment further while details are still emerging.

The Ferns, who are underdogs for tonight’s match, said “preparations for the game will continue as planned”.

The Norwegian team, staying at the M Social not far from the scene of the shootings, were not affected.

They said in a statement everyone in their camp was calm and preparations continued as normal.

Captain Maren Mjelde said: “Being informed about the consequences, the team’s thoughts are with those affected and their families. Everyone probably woke up quite quickly when the helicopter hovered outside the hotel window and a large number of emergency vehicles arrived.

“At first we didn’t know what was going on, but eventually there were updates on TV and the local media.

“We felt safe the whole time.

“Fifa has a good security system at the hotel, and we have our own security officer in the squad,” Mjelde said. “Everyone seems calm and we are preparing as normal for the game tonight.”

Four-time World Cup Champions the United States are staying at the SO/ in Britomart. A spokesperson for the team told the Herald: “All of our players and staff are accounted for and safe. Our security team is in communication with local authorities and we are proceeding with our daily schedule.”

The USA celebrates winning their fourth World Cup title in 2019. Photo / Photosport

The USA celebrates winning their fourth World Cup title in 2019. Photo / Photosport

They later added in a statement to social media: “US Soccer extends its deepest condolences to the families of the victims who were killed in the shooting in downtown Auckland today. We are saddened by the inexcusable loss of life to gun violence, and our thoughts are with the people of Auckland/Tāmaki Makaurau and Aotearoa New Zealand.”

Eden Park, which hosts the opening match this evening, released a statement saying they had been working with all relevant agencies regarding this morning’s incident and the impact on services and staffing.

Because of the global nature of the event, fans could expect an increased police and security presence within the precinct and across the venue.

Eden Park. Photo / Supplied

Eden Park. Photo / Supplied

The statement said: “Gates open from 4.30pm and we encourage all ticket-holders to arrive early and enjoy the Fifa activation zone and opening ceremony of the Fifa Women’s World Cup.

“Free public transport is included with your ticket and all bus routes and train lines will be operational. Check the Auckland Transport journey planner for the latest information.

The statement reiterated spectators should monitor their Fifa App and download tickets prior to arriving at Eden Park - and to be patient with staff.

They encouraged fans to leave bags at home to assist with ease of entry, but recommend bringing a poncho or raincoat after MetService issued a heavy rain watch from 8pm.

Bonnie Jansen is a multimedia journalist in the NZME Sports team. She’s a keen footballer and worked with the Alternative Commentary Collective before joining the Te Rito cadetship scheme.

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