Cricket World Cup launched

The ceremony began with a lone bagpiper and ended with a spectacular fireworks display, the largest in the city???s history.

The World Cup is taking place in New Zealand and Australia for the first time in 23 years and Hagley Oval will host Saturday’s opening match between New Zealand and Sri Lanka.

The tournament will be the largest event Christchurch has hosted since an earthquake in February 2011 devastated the city’s centre – just a few hundred yards from where Thursday’s event took place – tragically claiming the lives of 185 people.

The city had been preparing to host matches at the 2011 Rugby World Cup but the devastating effects of the earthquake meant the games had to be moved elsewhere.

???We are back??? said Mayor Leanne Dalziell while New Zealand Prime Minister John Key said it was ???only fitting??? that Christchurch should host the ceremony.

Highlights of the evening included children mingling with greats of the sport in games of ???backyard cricket??? which were played on four ovals divided into 14 individual grounds, to represent the 14 nations taking part in the tournament.

And more than 1,000 participants performed at various times on a large stage, among them West Indian steel bands, morris dancers and Maori warriors.

International Cricket Council chief executive David Richardson also unveiled the Cricket World Cup trophy, saying it was a symbol of the ICC’s values of excellence, integrity and inclusion.

The captains of the teams currently based in the country were also presented to the crowd and New Zealand skipper Brendon McCullum, who lives in Christchurch, said: ???Having the first game of the World Cup here, after all it’s been through, is fantastic.

“I think it’s a wide open World Cup. The nature of the wickets we’ll see in Australia and New Zealand are pure wickets and that brings in the match-winners. Every team has match-winners and they can turn the game in 10 or 15 overs.”

South Africa have yet to lift the World Cup but their skipper AB de Villiers told fans: ???We are as well prepared as we can be and we look forward to taking the trophy home.”

Melbourne also hosted a World Cup-opening event at the Sidney Myer Music Bowl.

World Cup players and legends appeared at the ceremony, which also featured cultural and music performances.

The highlight of the event was the appearance of a giant ‘batsman’, who took up a stance and also played some shots, to the delight of the spectators.