Personal reflections on urbanism, urban life and sustainable urban design in Wellington, New Zealand.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Event city

Even in my long list of Wellington events, I managed to miss out most of the major happenings last weekend. I didn't mention the cricket or the Round the Bays "fun run" (surely an oxymoron?), and I also didn't hear of the Greek Festival until a couple of days beforehand.

Greek Festival at the OPTThis was held at the Overseas Passenger Terminal, and while it had an emphasis on food (understandable given the Greek community's contribution to Wellington's dining - see the book "Wellington's Hellenic Mile") it didn't exclude more political expressions of cultural identity. For example, one stall promoted a campaign to return the Parthenon Frieze, and several young men wore "Free Cyprus" T-shirts. It certainly brought the OPT to life for a day, and despite Wellington Waterfront's desire for the OPT's ground-floor tenants to give a full commercial return, I can't help thining that it would be a great location for longer-term stalls of this nature. By the way, I've since found out that the Bates Smart design for the OPT was not the chosen option after all: the addition of two stories was regarded as too much. The selected proposal will be revealed in a couple of month's time.

By far the biggest event of the weekend, though, was the Volvo ocean race.

Crowds in Oriental Bay watching the start of leg 4 of the Volvo Ocean race
From the railway station to Point Jerningham, the waterfront was humming with people, some with a keen interest in the race, but many were there just to see the crowds, feel the atmosphere and enjoy the weather. It was pretty much impossible to get anywhere near the Queens Wharf bars on Friday night (what's that Waterfront Watch keeps saying about there already being too many bars on the waterfront?), while other people were enjoying the Ferris Wheel or watching dolphins down by Taranaki Wharf.

Waterfront Watch protest against the Queens Wharf HiltonMeanwhile, there was a massive Waterfront Watch protest against the proposed Queens Wharf Hilton. By "massive", I mean "four people in sandwich boards bothering the passers-by". They may have got a few signatures, but they didn't seem to be having too much luck with the people enjoying a drink outside Shed 5: maybe the thought of new drinking venues on the outer T didn't seem so terrible to them. Makes a change from bothering MPs, I guess.

Wellington may not have a V8 supercar race, but there seems to be plenty to keep us busy. Hamilton has "won" the V8s, and good luck to them. From 2008 their streets will be taken over by powerful, noisy cars been driven at breakneck speed by competitive young men, but as Llew pointed out, how could you tell? Hamilton now has its "iconic event" based upon big Aussie cars, while Wellington will have to put up with a series of events based upon our harbour, wind, arts, sports, music, food and diverse cultures. What a pity.