Eden Park was glorious yesterday. Kids and their parents streamed across, up and through the new South and East stands, queuing to have their pictures taken with the Web Ellis Trophy, or to get the signatures of Black Ferns, Blues, Aces and Benji Marshall.
The sun shone, music was performed. And somewhere in the complex, the new mayor of a new city underwent his first substantial interview. (The day before, John Banks, at the end of a hellish week, showed poise and grace in the wake of the thumping result against him.)
This isn't the left-wing sweep that some commentators have been quick to hail, but I do think it's the end of the outdated, dysfunctional partisanship that blighted my own city's former council. The new council looks essentially pragmatic and centrist to me. If Brown can manage the executive experience on his council without being dominated by it, they should get things done
And I do think that Brown's campaign manager, Conor Roberts, must now be hot property. First with David Shearer's by-election win, and now with Brown (who presented some real challenges as a candidate), he has shown how a hard-working, ground-level campaign can work. It should have been a lesson to more than the Labour Party.
The manner of the Super City's creation is going to plague us for some time yet. In particular, the rush to amalgamate has meant short-term fixes in information systems: from the technical (the whole thing should have rolled out as IP version 6, it didn't) to the financial (expect to discover at some point that there's a nasty great hole in the budget).
But we're here now, and it feels pretty good to be, well, somewhere.
And the new Eden Park is here now, more or less. And it's ahead of schedule and not screwed up. The big new stand is, aesthetically, much, much better than the ASB Stand with its silly po-mo façade. It's not a giant structure and, indeed, it feels restrained and economical. From the top row, the roof seems constrained for height, and lock forwards will want to mind their heads if they take the stairs. When they get to Level 6, they'll find a lovely, bright concourse with a view out through the translucent cladding across Mt Eden. There's glass everywhere, and well-sited plasma monitors.
Further down, there's a sense of space where the big new ground-level concourse sweeps around through the old Eastern Terraces site. The seat pitch is pretty good. There's an extensive accessibility platform – occupied yesterday by rows of baby buggies. I've put my dodgy old iPhone pics in a gallery for this post.
Currently missing: any bicycle parking at all. Bikes had to be chained up to whatever pole or rail was available yesterday, and it was messy, irritating and potentially unsafe. Just fix this, hey?
But in general, it was nice to see. I do hope people – friends of mine – can get over whining about Rugby World Cup 2011. The fact is, it is happening, and I think it's going to be exciting.
My friend Paul and I happened to get an invitation to the Web Ellis Trophy's first stop in Auckland on Saturday: a lunch at Sale Street where we heard from Bernie McCahill, whose pre-professional-era war stories seemed to consist largely of problem drinking episodes -- although I did get a chance to ask him about the game when Auckland began its record-breaking Ranfurly Shield run, and he responded to the inevitable "is Sonny Bill good enough?" question in the affirmative.
I had a chat to DB Breweries managing director Brian Blake about preparations for their Heineken brand's big year next year. Quite sensibly, they're keen for a family image, rather than problem drinking, around the Cup and its multiple fan zones. Yesterday at the park will have fitted that bill. And everyone will be hoping for good weather.
It seems that there are a few people only just getting their heads up after the Vodafone New Zealand Music Awards on Thursday. That was a long, late night – and, as Robyn Malcolm averred, a lot more fun than the Qantas Media Awards. I sat between Dave Fane and Matt Heath and their wives this year, so there was no shortage of amusement from the get-go.
And curiously enough, my evening began with a train ride. I happened to be near the Mt Albert station, so taking the eastbound into town was a logical choice. And it was great! For all that Auckland's bus services have improved in recent years, there's a feeling of fighting to get somewhere in a bus. The train just gets there. If Len Brown – cleverly claiming the mantle of Mayor Robbie – can help make that experience possible across more of the big news, city, he'll have done a good thing.