The Hong Kong sevens is unlike any other sporting event in the world. It is a festival of fun and frolics (and rugby) that has been honed over the past 35 years into the ultimate spectacle with the only rule being to have as much fun as possible. Here is an account of Jon Hobbs’ first visit as a spectator of the mayhem.
Fancy Dress: suited and booted
Arrive at London Heathrow airport, have a couple of sherbets to calm the nerves/anticipation. Persuade friend to try out some “man makeup”, get told off for taking photos in the airport, man makeup a resounding success.
Fancy Dress: none
Arrive at Hong Kong airport, pouring down, taxi to Kowloon RFC to take part in the Kowloon 10’s fresh off the plane.
Arrive in full suits (had attempted to blag an upgrade on the plane, no chance), change into kit. Get ready to play in monsoon, announcer decrees matches to come may be settled by drinking boat race if both captains agree. Most captains agree and a series of boat races settle the remaining fixtures.
Race across town to watch Hong Kong FC 10’s – excellent standard and crunching hits, enjoy a few beers in these opulent surroundings.
Change and race back across town for the Kowloon 10’s dinner (all you can eat, all you can drink – my kind of dinner) with John Bentley and Paul Wallace as guest speakers, Christian Cullen also in attendance.
Charity auction ensues, drinking game invented whereby every person on table has to bid for each item once before bidding stops, some very hairy moments. Fool friend into downing Tabasco shot, red lips and gallons of milk follow.
Off into Wan Chai to carry on the fun / be taken home early due to staggering.
Fancy Dress: none
Still no actual sevens being played – the build up is almost as important as the tournament. Go for a relaxing day swimming, sauna-ing and watching rugby at the HKFC 10’s. Swap rugby shirt with drunk little man, regret it, haggle for it back with beer, succeed.
“Quiet” dinner up top of funicular at Bubba Gump’s – order scampi, receive shrimp, debate as to whether they are one in the same remains unresolved.
Fancy Dress: Pirates followed by Future Robots
Rugby 7’s begins this evening so in preparation embark on an all-day boat trip from Causeway Bay. Share the boat with “Iain’s Stag” and thoroughly enjoy their company for a day of eating, drinking, singing, wakeboarding and banana-boating.
Dock at the bay, change into Future Robots™ and taxi over to stadium, head directly to South Stand (over 18’s, fancy dress encouraged), realise there are 40,000 other people sharing the same experience, party even harder.
Watch minnows being thrashed by seeded teams, leave with an unsatisfied need to watch some better rugby.
Head off into the night for some more bars. What’s that? An all you can drink night at Solas? Don’t mind if we do!
Fancy Dress: Full Body Paint
Wake up to the hangover to end all hangovers. Never going to make our 7:30am appointment with the body paint lady, hope she’ll be forgiving.
Arrive at the stadium at a leisurely 11:30am and see the South Stand already rocking. Head on over to say hi and get instantly abused for not being body-painted. Grovel to the body paint lady, get body painted, avoid South Stand for fear of retribution.
Watch some fantastic sevens – Hong Kong securing their second win of the group stages against Tonga, New Zealand coming from behind to defeat Australia with two tries from an emotionally charged Zar Lawrence and England showing the form that could take them all the way.
Sip water and coke while all around are slowly beginning to lose their faculties, enjoy the first stages of sobriety.
Become local celebrities by being covered in body paint and with about 500 photos being taken (no joke) depart the stadium only for yours truly to take a horrendous detour back to the flat to shower and sleep.
Other painted men carry on their celebrity by pretending to be the entertainment at a champagne party then into the city where I am informed locals came out of their houses to ask for photos with their newborn babies.
Fancy Dress: none
Awake with only slight remnants of yesterday’s hangover but sheets/shower covered in body paint.
Head over to the stadium with only one other of the original 6 in our group, all the others having gone too hard the night before. Say hello to the few remaining acquaintances who have managed to get to the South Stand today. Retch at the stale beer stench and depart within five minutes to the sanctuary of the West Stand.
Watch England crash out to Fiji, New Zealand crash out to Kenya and attempt to work out why KFC chicken fillet burger is brown and coke tastes like ginger.
Joined by all other waifs and strays throughout the day and become a little bit disappointed by the quality of sevens on show, resigned to the fact that they’re all too tired.
Cup Final starts, wonder whether Fiji can regain their glory days or if SA will continue their world dominance this season. All the other disappointing matches fade into insignificance as the final is a cracking affair. Fiji play immaculate sevens in the first half, SA come roaring back in the second half and have a conversion attempt to take it to extra time. Unfortunately that conversion is wide on the left and in front of the raucous South Stand who all want a Fiji victory.
Realise there has never been a noise like the din that greets Mzwandile Stick as he attempts to level the scores, but it can be put down as another eccentricity of the Hong Kong crowd, it is to be expected.
Needless to say he misses, Fiji secure the restart and boot it out, and the whole crowd go ballistic.
Having tired ourselves out for 6 days, all that can be mustered is a relaxing local meal and a dvd on the last night. I hear that others, more hardcore than we, carried on the party into the wee small hours.
Overall the most strange, fun and downright ridiculous few days of my life.