Random Play by Graham Reid

Once more on the tiles

Okay, this is true. Working at my house right now is a tiler. From Thailand. Yep, a Thai tiler -- in the country. Legally. Didn’t have to spend time off-shore to wangle a passport as far as I know.

This is one of the amusing kind of things that happens when workmen swarm all of your house, like the guy yesterday who said, “It’s bro’Town out there, bro‘ ”.

He was Samoan and referring to the multi-ethnic mix of labourers. Or else he was just making a joke.

And yesterday I needed a joke like a Thai tiler or bro’Town on my Morningside doorstep.

With a canniness which I have not hitherto revealed I had A Plan. I was going to post music from artists who were performing at Womad at the time that the Herald article (which I wrote) appeared. And I was going to tell all my subscribers to Elsewhere about that, and the new section Recipes From Elsewhere which I was unveiling simultaneously. And a new website they might be interested in.

And I was going to do a giveaway of a dozen albums to subscribers. Because that’s the kind of guy I am.

Well, it sort of didn’t happen like that. The best laid plans of me and mice, I guess.

As many of you know i-Hug went into one of its periodic nosedives and there was nothing coming in or out of my laptop (other than some weird weight-loss spam which always seems to slip through) for about 24 hours -- my crucial 24 hours!

Like most people I lost work (ie wages) and time, and mainly just got pissed off. My simultaneous bid for attention died in a mass of curses and coffee.

Then the Thai tiler arrived, and I burst out laughing.

That sort of put things in perspective. I thought I had problems, and then I remembered Philip Field, the other Thai tiler and his family, and so on.

Anyway if you are looking for interesting recipes (and want to contribute one or two from your travels), or want to hear music by artist coming to Womad (and others) then check it out here.

But also, what follows is an article I offered to the Herald’s opinion page two and a half weeks ago. I’ve never heard back from them so I guess they weren’t interested. But seeing that front page image of a slightly ovoid toilet roll (artist’s impression!) superimposed on the waterfront made me think this might all be part of the cunning game which is being played around us with this World Cup stadium discussion.

So here is what I wrote. It slightly repeats a few points that I have made in the past about this issue, but the fundamental question remains unasked -- and therefore cleverly unanswered.

Have a good weekend. I’m going Elsewhere again.


The citizens of Vancouver woke to amusing news recently. The mayors of the nearby towns of Whistler and Squamish had joined Vancouver's 2010 Olympics organisers to support the plan to house Games media in a cruise ship docked in Squamish.

This occasioned great humour among letters to the editor columns: how would diligent sports writers -- renown for their moderate and sober ways -- cope with the stressful conditions aboard a vessel which has bars, a swimming pool and possibly a casino?

If people in Vancouver allowed themselves a laugh -- the IOC had already rejected the idea -- it was a rare one.

As with other cities which have won the rights to host such events as the Olympic or Commonwealth Games, the reality of their situation hit hard before the celebratory hangover had even faded. As always it was the taxpayer staring at cost over-runs and shortfalls, and other public expenditure being sidelined to pay for the event.

In a sentence which rang hollow but should sound as a warning to other cities around the world hosting major events, Dave Rudberg, general manager of the 2010 Games operations for the city said, “All I can say is the level of inflation was far greater than any of the parties anticipated.”

Many were understandably unhappy with such a bland disavowal of responsibility, especially when -- despite promises in 2003 that the provincial government would cover cost overruns -- the city looked like it might have to pitch in something close to CAN $26 million ($34 million). This, because of the shortfall on what are described as “legacy facilities”.

The cost of an ice-rink has almost tripled in cost since 2003 (CAN$5 million to $CAN$14); and the Vancouver Organising Committee’s contribution to a curling facility has risen CAN$10 to CAN$38 million. The estimated cost of an aquatic centre had also risen by around the same amount.

And no one is saying that these are final figures. The Games are still four years away.

There is a message in this: that the enthusiasm for such projects by some may not be matched by business pragmatism. And further, that nor does it need to be because once you win the rights to stage such an event you can’t cancel. You just have to keep paying . . . and paying.

And as many cities will testify, when the curtain falls on the event and guests go home saying how wonderful it was the now-silent stadia and pools still have to pay their way.

It takes no great leap of the imagination to see something similar happening in Auckland with the 2011 World Cup. The cynical have suggested the idea of a new stadium on the Auckland waterfront -- an idea far from enthusiastically received -- has been a diversion to buy time and therefore create a greater sense of urgency for the Eden Park up-grade.

Already the quiet fear-mongering has begun. Eden Park Development Committee chairman Rob Fisher said this week (October 15) he welcomes debate about the various options -- which also include development of North Harbour Stadium -- but offers a warning: “We look forward to, within the next three to four weeks, a prompt decision from Government, to ensure the critical path for delivery is not compromised.

“While we are confident that Eden Park will meet the IRB's [International Rugby Board] requirements, can be built in time for the Cup . . . it remains to be seen whether a waterfront option is viable.”

Some potential developers say a harbourside stadium cannot be built in five years -- sceptics point to the on-going delays at the small stadium near Britomart which was supposed to open last year -- and given the enormous amount of highly visible space a harbour side stadium would command we might guess a long period of acrimonious public debate.

So discussion comes back to Eden Park and concerns about the proposed new height which is not only an ugly visual imposition on the landscape but will cast shade over 200 nearby houses. I imagine one affected might be the home of the prime minister.

My concern is not only with the appalling aesthetics -- believe me, if you stand in the street and imagine what is proposed you’ll be horrified -- but what happens after the World Cup is over and the hoopla has faded. I predict a very long hangover.

I am sure many thousands bringing their money will come to New Zealand during this period -- although let’s be honest, the Barmy Army did not appear in anywhere near the numbers expected, and promised, during the Lions tour last year.

But what happens after the crowds have gone home? Put bluntly, how will Eden Park earn a buck?

Does anyone seriously expect bigger crowds for Auckland v Otago, or some cricket game between provincial teams? People don’t go to them now and it isn’t the stadium’s fault, they just aren’t that compelling.

My guess is that the new, improved legacy facility -- and people in Vancouver know what that means, and costs -- will not be able to pay its way, and someone (and you know who) will have to front up with the money.

I have lived within a few hundred metres of Eden Park for five years and I love it. I have never complained about its presence, that would be ridiculous.

But what was hinted a year ago was they might want to put concerts in there. That is something I will object to, that is a significant change of designation.

A flyer arrived in my letterbox reassuringly saying concerts would be sort of family affairs, and Sir Paul McCartney’s name was mentioned by way of example.

Well first of all, even at his age he still plays a loud rock show -- but the fact is, he isn’t coming.

And that raises the question, just who are the stadium-filling acts these days?

Answer: there are very few. The Stones have been and probably won’t come again, and audiences for the Eagles, Fleetwood Mac and the like have diminished considerably.

So that leaves?

I love the Big Day Out and haven’t missed one yet -- but it would be inappropriate to hold it in the centre of the suburbs. So my concern is not just about the ugliness of the proposed option at Eden Park, but just who might fill it post-2011 and therefore pay for that thing.

No one has answered that question -- it isn’t even being asked in the controversy over stadium options and costs -- but I fear I know the answer.