The coveted Sevens week has been and gone, and to my surprise – I survived.
For me the week began with the GFI Ten’s Tournament held at the Hong Kong Football Club (HKFC) on the Wednesday.
J was selected to represent the Club’s side and as such, played three games over two days. After being a spectator of both the 80 minute, 15 a side version of rugby and a 20 minute 10 a side I can safely say that the latter is more entertaining (particularly for someone with my limited attention span).
The atmosphere at the club on Wednesday was very different to Thursday, most likely as a result of the finals. The air on Thursday was electric and everyone was in a great mood. If you weren’t mates on the Wednesday, you were bound to be by Thursday afternoon.
Teams had come from all over the world – all walks of life (including several appearances from the likes of George Gregan and many other rugby identities), but the travelers that stood out the most would have to have been the Rwandan Rugby Team. Their presence in a crowd full of spectators was overwhelming, as they sang and danced the night away, cheering on their team.
Another personal highlight for me were the cheerleaders. Although one might attribute this crowd pleaser to Rugby League, it was a pleasant (yet interesting) surprise to see these girls out in full form on the pitch. Some suitable underwear wouldn’t have gone astray; mind you the Irish bloke sitting next to me with his handy camera didn’t seem to mind at all. The other female presence that this bloke (and others) were inclined towards, were the trusty Carlsberg Beer Wench’s in all their white and green glory.
The HSBC Crew were another great presence in the audience with their small band playing anything from ‘Sweet Caroline’ to marching tunes and provoking crowd participation, offering red top hats to those that wished to join the fun.
After a shaky start to the tournament for the Club team , the boys came out on top with J scoring a measly 5 meat pies in the finals (must be a club record?!). We proceeded to the Rugby Section dinner in the dining hall on the HKFC where the players were presented with trophies and discussed their costumes for the next few days.
Friday night, an executive decision was made to only have a few drinks at the Seven’s and then head home early for a good night’s sleep before the Saturday South Stand activities. Well, SEVERAL drinks later and a visit to the ‘Champagne Tent’ after the rugby we totted home and dived into bed…much later than we had anticipated.
Awaking on the couch (due to a volume control issue with J sinuses the night before), and having caught fewer Z’s than hoped for, it was time to get into character. We were going to the Seven’s dressed as Black Swans (or Natalie Portman, if you will). Yes – J, three other large rugby men and myself were dressing in black tutu’s with a face full of paint and heading to the South Stand for a day of…rugby?!
For those of you unaware of what the ‘South Stand’ entails, I will provide you with a very quick explanation (purely for the fact that I still don’t really understand it myself). The South Stand is a sectioned off area of the Hong Kong Stadium, most notoriously known for being the party patch of the Sevens Tournament. Even if you have tickets to the Rugby, it will not necessarily mean that you have access to this stand. Once capacity has been reached, officials shut it off the rest of the public until patrons begin leaving. It is a ‘one out – one in’ policy and if you miss the boat on this, it is cause for devastation and what is anticipated to be a minimum 2 hour wait.
Once in the South Stand, you are treated to the masses of costumes. Adults dressing as Shrek and Minnie Mouse, men dressed as Ballerina’s and woman dressed as Crayons. It is an assault on the senses. The visual confusion; a result of bumping into someone whom you may have only ever seen in a business suit at Friday drinks, now wearing a massive diaper and sucking on a baby dummy. The smell of the ladies toilets and the unfortunate toilet bowl overflow caused by someone that has had way too much to drink, way too fast and chased it with meat pie. The noise of a roaring crowd as a streaker strips off his Big Bird costume and makes his way across the pitch with security well behind him.
The South Stand, ladies and gentlemen is something you won’t ever forget (unless you throw back a few too many Vodka Redbulls and the whole experience is a touch blurry). I had decided early on, that being my virgin experience, I was going to pace myself. I was far too busy indulging in my surroundings that I almost forgot to fill my cup up entirely.
In front of me, the sight of 40 men dressed as hunters, literally pursuing a bloke dressed as a Moose. To my right, a group of girls dressed as Mexicans maneuvering their way through the rows of chairs with massive sombreros. To my far left (thank god!) an individual too lazy to attempt the toilet queue and instead, attempting to discreetly unload his bladder on the seat in front of him. The sound of the Black Eyed Peas blaring across the speakers as whoever was playing scored a try and a Lady Gaga behind me, dancing on a seat.
In the line to the toilet I met Princess Fiona from Shrek and on her leash was the Ginger Bread man. Walking along the row back to my seat a bloke with a moustache jumps out of nowhere and stamps my arm. It still reads: “I have been dirty sanchezed. And I liked it.”
As the afternoon dragged on, the carnage of the day was beginning to rear its ugly head as those that had peaked to early were found having a kip in the seats. One man, oblivious to the rubbish being thrown at his head and drinks poured on his lap, managed to stay napping the whole time.
Having started the day at 6am, by 5pm I was beginning to feel the pain of a few drinks, too much sun, noise and far too much time spent in the line to the toilet. My face paint was beginning to run and the energy from the meat pie I had for breakfast was starting to fade. The crowd was getting messier and inhibitions were being erased…I know this because I saw a grown man pee on a wall near the drinks stand.
Sunday followed with a slow morning on the couch, a cheese pizza and an afternoon watching the finals back at the stadium (avoiding the South Stand at all costs).
Hong Kong Sevens, you were an eye opener and you tested my boundaries but you did not defeat me. I’m not sure I will be back next year for round two, but I thank you for a good time and a new (if not frightening) experience.