Rugby League World Cup In Push For Record Crowds At Opening Ceremony
Rugby World Cup organizers have stepped up their big push for the opening ceremony and double-header in Cardiff on Oct. 26, "and are increasingly confident of approaching or even beating the 41,271 crowd attracted to the first game of the successful 1995 tournament at Wembley," according to Andy Wilson of the London GUARDIAN. England will again kick off the tournament against Australia, this time followed by Wales's opening game against the World Cup debutants Italy, and ticket sales have remained some distance behind those for the other two major events -- the semifinals at Wembley, which will also be played as a double header on Nov. 23, and the final at Old Trafford the next Saturday, "which is almost guaranteed to be sold out." But they had already started to pick up considerably before advertising was stepped up after the Super League Grand Final, "and are now understood to have passed the 34,157 who watched the opening ceremony of the last World Cup in Sydney five years ago." The tournament's TV deal with the BBC has delivered an unexpected benefit as, in addition to the regular Saturday afternoon kickoffs favored by the terrestrial broadcaster -- but generally eschewed by Sky -- "the corporation has allowed organisers to incorporate a Strictly Come Dancing section in the opening ceremony, including the former Great Britain wing Martin Offiah" (GUARDIAN, 10/16). The London EVENING STANDARD reported specially-designed lighting, original music, and a dance extravaganza created by some of the U.K.'s leading choreographers, "will form part of the opening ceremony for the Rugby League World Cup." Organizers "have confirmed details of the hotly-anticipated ceremony" at the Millennium Stadium, which will involve more than 1,500 performers. Classical singer Camilla Kerslake will sing "God Save The Queen" ahead of England's clash with Australia. Music at the ceremony will also include performances from female classical-pop quartet Escala and Welsh "Queen of the Harps" Catrin Finch, "and a mass choir of a thousand voices" (EVENING STANDARD, 10/16). The BBC reported former players Offiah and Gareth Thomas "will be part of the Rugby League World Cup opening ceremony." As well as the Strictly Come Dancing-style show, Thomas will be dancing with 50 professional dancers and 500 dancers from local communities in Wales and southwest England as part of a £1M ($1.6M) project "part-funded by the Arts Council England and Arts Council Wales" (BBC, 10/16).