James Mortimer and allblacks.com - (11/08/2012)
The Bledisloe Cup, considered in some quarters as the second most important trophy in world rugby, will be contested for this season in one week, and for Sydney the current Bledisloe Cup festival is the start of what New South Wales Minister for Sport Graham Annesley believes could be as big as the American NFL SuperBowl.
The 81-year-old Cup is in Australia at the moment as part of their buildup to the opening test of The Investec Rugby Championship and first Bledisloe of 2012, while the new trophy that replaces the Tri-Nations is also touring across the ditch.
For Sydney it is the first year of what was considered a massive coup at the time, with the NSW Government and the Australian Rugby Union agreeing that the first Bledisloe Cup match on Australian soil each season for the next decade will be played in Australia's largest city.
Annesley told the Australian he saw comparison with the SuperBowl, with Super Bowl XLV, played in 2011, the most watched American television program in history.
"The Bledisloe Cup Festival has the potential to grow into something big over the next 10 years," Annesley said.
"I compare it to the Super Bowl. I attended the Super Bowl between the Seattle Seahawks and the Pittsburgh Steelers in Detroit in 2006.
"There was a whole week of activities. There was the NFL Experience, which was like an expo. People lined up for hours to get into a convention centre where there were interactive games and player appearances. There was the Commissioner's Ball at the Henry Ford Museum, which was attended by several thousand people. There was a cast of thousands in the pre-game entertainment and the Rolling Stones performed at half-time. It was bigger than Ben Hur.
"We are in the early stages of the Bledisloe Cup Festival but there is an opportunity to grow it so it becomes an important experience for people."
The Bledisloe Cup Festival in Australia includes an exhibition at the Museum of Sydney, a fan day at Darling Harbour, and a roadshow to schools and rugby clubs as well as a black-tie ball.
In New Zealand the build up has already begun, although Annesley hoped that All Blacks supporters would be in force next weekend.
"There will be a mass exodus of Kiwis for the game," Annesley said.
"We want them to come earlier, stay longer and spend more money. It's not just about the Bledisloe Cup, it's about trying to get more more people into NSW.
For New Zealand a feast of fan activity has been unveiled by the New Zealand Rugby Union (NZRU) and Auckland City Mayor Len Brown to celebrate the Bledisloe Cup Test on Saturday 25 August when the All Blacks take on Australia for the first time in New Zealand since last year's Rugby World Cup 2011 (RWC 2011) semifinal.
Activities planned for the buildup to Eden Park are:
• "Fanzone to Cure Kids." The Fanzone will open at the Cloud from 2pm-6pm featuring a range of family friendly activities, entertainment and guest appearances. The NZRU will also have trophies on display and will be encouraging Aucklanders to do their bit for Cure Kids.
• Fan Trail. Starting at Auckland's waterfront on Queen Elizabeth Square, the trail will follow the same 4.3km route as RWC 2011 with a range of special entertainment planned from 4pm onwards.
• Eden Park New Zealand Red Nose challenge. Cure Kids and the All Blacks are encouraging fans attending the Test to don red noses. These will be placed in each of the 48,000 seats and a special appeal will be made at half-time for all fans to wear their red noses to send a message of support to cure kids.
Auckland Mayor Len Brown says the Fan Trail became one of Auckland's "must do" activities during RWC 2011 and he is delighted to see it reactivated for the Bledisloe Cup.
"If you walked the Fan Trail during RWC 2011, you will want to do it again. If you didn't, this is your chance to see why the fans couldn't get enough of it."
Len Brown said 25 August would be a very special day for Auckland with a Cure Kids Bledisloe Cup Fanzone at the Cloud followed by the Bledisloe Cup Fan Trail and a stadium filled with red-nosed fans watching the All Blacks take on Australia in the city's biggest sporting event of the year.
Eden Park is tracking towards a sell-out crowd with more than 46,500 tickets already sold. The Auckland Test is the second of three Bledisloe Cup Test matches with the All Blacks in Sydney the week before and the third Test in Brisbane on 20 October.