At Party Central, the bar opens early, but the crowd stays calm (PHOTOS, VIDEO)
This time (2.45pm) last Friday, I videoed a walk down the Party Central queue on the Auckland waterfront. It was around 1km long, and would soon be swamped by merry makers spilling out of downtown pubs (above).
At 2.45pm this Friday, the scene's a little different. There are barriers neatly lined up as far as the eye can see (good idea, why didn't someone think of them last week after four years of planning) ...
.... but not a soul behind them.
Obviously there's none of the opening day hoopla this Friday, and of course today's All Blacks game is in The Tron, not Auckland.
But another reason is the bar's open early. The cavernous Heineken World Bar - which like the rest of Party Central was locked to the public until 3pm last week, opened at 12.30pm today, a security guard told me.
When I visited, around 2.50pm, it was starting to fill with a reasonable crowd, all well-behaved, five hours ahead of kick-off. [UPDATE: The crowd reached a reported 7300 by 7.50pm, just ahead of kick-off, and 11,000 by half time. Queen's Wharf capacity is 12,000].
Extra lighting and fencing is in place, which should help prevent a repeat of last Friday when three revellers had to be fished out of the harbour.
In the video above, I take a stroll through the crowd. There's security guards everywhere, but a relaxed atmosphere, and as you'll see part-way through the clip, I easily defeat an attempt to keep me out of the "transition zone" (also check out the Martin JetPack pilot; hippies can fly).
Good news: the big screens are working (last Friday one displayed a service message all night; mid-week, one was flickering).
Looking back and forward along Queen's Wharf.
The stage area behind Shed 10.
Inside The Cloud, the scene is relaxed.
As I type, it's still five hours to kick-off.
But indications are Murray McCully will be able to sleep soundly.
And, if he's up for an ambitious account of this afternoon's events, to claim victory in the battle for Auckland's waterfront.