The Webb Ellis Cup, the tangible symbol of world rugby supremacy, arrived in style in Auckland on board an Emirates Airbus A380 superjumbo to an unforgettable welcome from a traditional Maori haka group ahead of the Rugby World Cup 2011 tournament.
The trophy, carried on its final journey from International Rugby Board (IRB) headquarters in Dublin, Ireland, will now go into lockdown until the final at Eden Park on the night of Sunday, 23rd October.
Emirates, Worldwide Partner of Rugby World Cup 2011, displayed the cup en route at special events in London, Dubai and Sydney, before it arrived today on a double-decker A380 specially decorated for the occasion with a Rugby World Cup-themed decal and logo.
Gary Chapman, Emirates’ President Group Services & dnata, said on arrival in Auckland, “We saw a truly unforgettable welcome for the Webb Ellis Cup as it completed its final journey to New Zealand. Emirates is proud to have been able to bring the trophy all the way from London, via Dubai, on our flagship aircraft, the Airbus A380.”
Mr Chapman continued, “Part of our sponsorship philosophy is to give sports fans around the world the chance to be part of the action, and we have certainly done that on this journey. Rugby fans have been able to get close to the trophy in London, in our home base of Dubai, in Sydney and we have now delivered it to Auckland for the start of what looks set to be a fascinating tournament.”
After touchdown, the aircraft taxied through the traditional welcome of a water-cannon arch from airport fire engines before arriving at the terminal’s dedicated A380 pier.
To the distinctive sound of a conch-shell horn, IRB chairman Bernard Lapasset from France, accompanied by Gary Chapman, along with Emirates cabin crew members, descended an open set of steps with the trophy.
An exchange of karanga (ceremonial greetings calls) was followed by a haka powhiri (welcome haka) performed by a Maori group comprising of Customs officers.
Mr Lapasset then placed the Webb Ellis Cup on a plinth, before exchanging greetings with New Zealand Prime Minister John Key and other dignitaries.
Accompanied by a waiata (Maori song), the groups then made their way into the Auckland Airport terminal building for a gathering and media conference in the new 220-seat Emirates Lounge for premium passengers.
The media conference was preceded in the lounge by a karakia (prayer) from a Maori elder and a full haka.