To sports fans, it’s world-class rugby. To the costumed in the stands, it’s the biggest party of the year. For three days, the world comes together for Hong Kong’s marquee sporting event, when the bars are packed, the streets of Causeway Bay exude festival energy and the stadium takes on a life of its own. It’s a reminder to all that there’s no place like Hong Kong.
by Adam White
The world’s greatest rugby tournament started in a very Hong Kong way: humbly, with a side order of capitalism.
In 1976 the idea of a sports tournament began over a boozy lunch as a way to market a tobacco brand (those were the days!) and, a few months later, 3,000 people showed up to watch an afternoon of seven-a-side rugby.
But as Hong Kong boomed in the 1980s, the Sevens boomed alongside it. The tournament built a reputation for bringing together sides from all across the world. The city was hooked. These days 120,000 people fight tooth and nail to score a ticket to the Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens.
For many, going to the Sevens is a rite of passage. I know those who’ve been going since they were kids. I’m a relative latecomer. But the second I arrived at my first Sevens, I realised just how much I’d been missing.
See, Hong Kong isn’t exactly famed for its sporting prowess. Our football team doesn’t qualify for the World Cup; nor do we host Formula 1. But we all know we have the best Sevens tournament in the world.
At the Sevens I look around the stands and see thousands who have flown in to support their teams, and I’m proud that I can host them. At the Sevens, I see the internationalism of this wonderful city come to life. And if I can party at the same time? Well, it’s the Hong Kong way.
That’s where the South Stand comes in. It is by universal agreement the party end of the stadium, a chaotic mix of ingenious costumes, revelry and noise that’s at the very heart of the Sevens, a glorious rabble that’s made Sweet Caroline the stadium anthem.
Take last year. I’m in the South Stand, cracking into another pre-lunchtime beer. But on the pitch, a Fijian player has broken free and he’s sprinting to the try line. A roar takes over the stadium. I’m on my feet, beer discarded, yelling alongside a hundred other nations in the stands. He’s tearing forwards, weaving, leaping, diving… it’s a try! Exhilaration floods in, washing against the seats.
And then, over the speakers…
The South Stand takes up the call, people of all nations united by rugby, beer and one cheesy song. I can’t possibly resist: ‘Good times never seemed so good…!’
A Festival of Rugby
The city’s biggest party, the Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens, returns to town in April. And for the first time ever, the Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens Fan Walk, running from 7-9 April, is putting Causeway Bay’s Lee Gardens at the heart of the event. Here’s how to get in on the action.
1. Eat, drink and be merry
The worst mistake you can make on Sevens weekend is forgetting to eat. Luckily, there is a host of restaurant and bar promotions in the Lee Gardens area and on the Fan Walk to help you get your fill. An international array of food means you can eat your way across the globe throughout the weekend.
2. Cathay Pacific FAN booth
As a title sponsor of the Hong Kong Sevens for 35 years, Cathay Pacific has become synonymous with the city’s biggest sporting event. And this year, Cathay Pacific will play a big part at the Cathay Pacific/HSBC Fan Walk, too. Experience the airline’s new Sevens film on the big screen, get involved at the fan booth with Cathay’s skills show, meet-and-greet other Sevens fans and find lots of other ways to revel in the atmosphere.
From 24 March to 9 April; hksevens.cathaypacific.com
3. Street performers
Mimes, magicians, dance crews, jugglers and human statues – all of them, and more, will be performing around the Lee Gardens area.
4. Sevens Street
The perfect spot for families to soak up the Sevens fun. Lee Gardens’ Hysan Avenue will be filled with rugby skill games, interactive booths and plenty more!
5. A world of fun
Rugby is all about the world in union, right? That’s definitely true at the Fan Walk, which will celebrate the cultures of the tournament’s 28 participating countries through musicians, dancers, street performers and celebrity impersonators.
6. Carlsberg Beer Garden
You could easily spend the whole weekend at the Carlsberg Beer Garden. There’ll be a big screen streaming all the rugby action, so you can experience all the stadium atmosphere, as well as regular entertainment and plenty of drinks (as you may have guessed).
7. Rugby legends
After an autograph and a celeb-selfie? You’re in luck. A dozen rugby legends, including David Campese and Andrew Mehrtens, will be at the Fan Walk for your meeting-and-greeting pleasure.
The Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens is held at Hong Kong Stadium from 7 to 9 April. hksevens.cathaypacific.com
The tournament is streamed live on Cathay Pacific’s new Sport 24 channel, available on Airbus A350 planes