Rugby-New Zealand boosted all round by 2011 World Cup

Dec 18 (Reuters) - The 2011 Rugby World Cup brought over 133,000 international visitors to New Zealand and had a short-term economic impact of 1.73 billion NZ dollars ($1.46 billion), according to a report released on Tuesday.

The report, commissioned by the New Zealand Government, investigated the impact of the 45-day long tournament which was won by the host nation.

It was the first time since New Zealand last hosted the event in 1987 that they won the title, although they nearly missed out again, coming up against an inspired French side in the final and eking out a dramatic 8-7 win at Auckland's Eden Park.

Despite being rugby-mad, doubts had been raised about whether the country had the infrastructure to host the event and if enough profit would be made.

Organisers also had to contend with the devastating Canterbury earthquake seven months before kick-off in which the stadium in Christchurch, due to host seven matches, was severely damaged.

In the end, the tournament largely ran smoothly and the organisers, Rugby New Zealand 2011, posted a loss of $31.3 million, 20 percent better than expected.

The report looking at the wider issues found that the tournament had a short-term impact of $1.73 billion between 2006 and 2012 on the New Zealand economy, and sustained the equivalent of 29,990 jobs for the duration of one year.

It was estimated by the International Rugby Board that economic activity was boosted by more than $500 million.

The tournament attracted over 133,000 international visitors, over twice initial estimates, with well over a third coming from Australia.

Overseas visitors spent around $390 million, according to estimates.

The report said the tournament exceeded all expectations, both on and off the pitch, and delivered tangible and positive benefits for New Zealand and the game as a whole.

"The legacies of RWC 2011 include positive visitor experiences, new business connections, improved infrastructure, and greater interest in volunteering," New Zealand sport and recreation minister Murray McCully said.

"Importantly, an understanding of the planning and operational excellence required to deliver major events is now embedded here, and is already being applied to preparations for the Cricket World Cup and FIFA Under 20 World Cup in 2015, and the World Masters Games in 2017.

"However, it is the intangible elements - the way the nation came together, and the pride we felt as hosts - that will define RWC 2011 for most New Zealanders in the future." ($1 = 1.1842 New Zealand dollars)

(Reporting by Josh Reich, editing by Ed Osmond)

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