|New Zealand will host the Rugby World Cup 2011 from September this year [GALLO/GETTY]
New Zealand Prime Minister John Key hopes Christchurch can still host Rugby World Cup matches as planned later this year despite the deadly earthquake that hit the city on Tuesday.
The country's second largest city is one of the venues for the September 9-October 23 tournament and scheduled to host seven matches including England and Australia's openers and two of the quarter-finals at Christchurch Stadium.
The earthquake, the second major tremor to hit Christchurch in five months, killed at least 75 people and left roads buckled and buildings toppled across the city of 400,000 people.
"If we can host the Rugby World Cup as we intend in Christchurch I would like to do that," Key told a news conference in Wellington on Wednesday.
"It's some way into the future (but) it's a very important city to New Zealand. It would be a demonstration Christchurch is back up on its feet.
"One of the issues might be accommodation; there has been substantial damage to hotels."
Rugby World Cup organisers earlier said it was too early and would be inappropriate to speculate whether the quake would have an impact on the showpiece event.
"At this time RWC 2011 must take a backseat while Christchurch deals with the aftermath of this tragedy," tournament communications manager Mike Jaspers said by e-mail.
|Key said hosting the tournament could show Christchurch was 'back up on its feet' [GALLO/GETTY]
"Our thoughts are very much with the people of the region. It is too early to talk about any implications for the tournament and any assessment must wait while the rescue and recovery efforts take priority."
Given the provision of hotels and other accommodation for the tournament was already tight before the destruction caused by the earthquake, it is likely that there will be implications.
The governing International Rugby Board issued a similar statement calling for the focus to remain on the emergency response in the city where the search for survivors in the rubble continued on Wednesday.
An international athletics meeting due to take place in Christchurch's QEII on Saturday has been postponed "for an undetermined period" because of the quake, organisers said.
The New Zealand Olympic Committee said plans were underway for a fundraising meeting in aid of the relief effort to take place in Wellington on Saturday instead.
The Australian women's cricket team, who were training just outside the city when the 6.3 magnitude quake struck, will be evacuated and their one-day international series against New Zealand cancelled, Cricket Australia said.
New Zealand's cricket team were in India at the World Cup when the quake struck and looked set to play on with a match against Australia coming up on Friday in Nagpur.
"The greatest thing we can do for a lot of people is win the game against Australia," skipper Daniel Vettori said in a video posted on the New Zealand Cricket website.
"That would bring a little bit of relief to some people going through a tough time."