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sport talk:
The Magnificent Sevens

The Hong Kong Sevens is an event loved and hated by people in equal measure. It’s loved because everyone who ends up in the hallowed stands has an incredible time, and hated by those who missed out on tickets. And while the first category enjoy the best weekend sport has to offer, the second group is left licking their wounds while watching the action on dodgy internet TV or in an overly priced sports bar. So don’t make the same mistake again, instead get yourself down to Hong Kong. You won’t regret it.

Born over a couple of pre lunch drinks in 1975 and established a year later, the Hong Kong Sevens has rapidly become the jewel in the crown of the IRB World Series. And for good reason. It combines high impact sport, a friendly drinking culture and a collective desire to have a great weekend. Rugby legend Bill McLaren described the event in his autobiography, saying “Certainly, the Hong Kong event encapsulates all the really good things that the game has to offer – splendid organisation, wonderful sporting spirit, universal camaraderie, admirable field behaviour, the most enjoyable crowd participation.”

The Hong Kong Sevens is more than just a simple three-day long sporting event. Like all the great sporting institutions, the game comes second to the fun to be had in and around the ground. From the raucous and often slightly strange atmosphere of the South Stand, to the family atmosphere in the rest of the stadium, there is a place for everyone.

You can’t talk about the Hong Kong Sevens without mentioning the South Stand. It is the party that everyone wants to get invited to and is so popular that even when suffering from the worst hangovers, people will queue to get in when doors open at the crack of dawn. Once inside you can appreciate what all the fuss is about. Fancy dress, spirited dancing and plenty of beer drinking makes for some extraordinary sights. Dave Jones told us of his first experience in the South Stand. “Last year was crazy. There was a group of dancing sushi, about 30 Marios and a bunch of guys wearing the Shanghai Hairy Crabs rugby top. Is there anywhere else in the world you can see that?” asks Jones.

The tournament is played in front of 40,000 spectators over a three-day period, this year starting 25 March. And despite what you might assume from the crazy stories and booze fuelled Facebook photos, there is more to the Sevens than simply a 20-something piss up.

Family man John Abbot says, “It’s hard to describe really. While the guys and gals in the South Stand drink away their pay cheques, the families who go can enjoy the sporting spectacle over a couple of drinks. That’s not to say there isn’t fun dancing and fancy dress in the other stands, just that the atmosphere is calmer and there are a lot less litre cups of questionable liquids being thrown over the place.”

It seems people can’t simply go to the Hong Kong Sevens just once, and after a while the weekend becomes an essential one. Regular spectator William Andrews had plenty to say about why he keeps going back year after year.

“My parents used to take me when I was a child and they are some of the best memories of my life,” he says. “When I got a little older, my friends and I started going as a group and having a party in the South Stand. It really can’t be beaten as far as a weekend of fun goes.” As for this year, “Will I be there? You bet! I got my fancy dress sorted months in advance…we are all going as Chilean miners. It’s going to amazing.”

A word to the wise though: tickets sell out fast, but even if you miss buying one through legitimate means you should head over for the weekend as you can be sure to find ticket touts only to happy to provide the goods.

When we last checked flights from Shanghai to Hong Kong for the Sevens period, we found them for as cheap as RMB 2,850 (plus taxes). Web:


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