22 March 2019
Fans whoop it up on the third and final day of this year's Hong Kong Rugby Sevens on Sunday. Photo: AFP
Fans whoop it up on the third and final day of this year's Hong Kong Rugby Sevens on Sunday. Photo: AFP

Why Rugby Sevens is such a hit in Hong Kong

If you feel like you’re not really quite anxious to return to work today, chances are you’re not just suffering from the usual Monday blues; you may also be going through a post-Sevens syndrome, from which you may take up to a year to recover.

After a long absence, I finally got a chance to return to the Hong Kong Stadium on Sunday for the annual Bacchanalia of beer, weird get-ups and, incidentally, rugby.

This year the Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens came a bit unusually late, but the people’s enthusiasm for the city’s largest outdoor sporting event only got better.

For me there’s no better way to determine how hot an event is than by the number of people asking others on social network for tickets.

And this year the begging and cajoling as well as the boasting about being able to watch the games were, as far as I could see, at an all-time high.

Just take a look at how many young and not so young people with the most outrageous hair styles and hair dyes were invading public transport, restaurants and pubs, making fools of themselves and thoroughly enjoying the three-day event, and you can’t help but feel nostalgic about the long-lost vibrancy of this beloved city of ours.

I didn’t try to count the number of nationalities attracted to the international event but I noticed one particular group was apparently missing.

That’s right, the mainlanders we see all year round in the tourist districts.

I’m not suggesting they don’t watch the Sevens. In fact, I think an increasing number of them are coming to the annual event. 

There were four mainlanders queueing up before me around noon on Sunday. But at the South Stand – the most rambunctious place in the entire stadium where the weirdest people with the weirdest costumes could be seen – I spotted more Japanese than Chinese. 

That is simply because the Chinese national rugby team did not play this year.

Looking around the arena i saw a sea of advertising billboards but I could only spot two with Chinese characters.

One of them was Kukri, a sponsor of the Hong Kong Rugby team with its 長 logo adorning the local players’ shirts.

The other was Hong Kong-listed Mason Financial Holding Ltd. (民信金控), where some of the bankers from Peregrine I’ve known from my previous life as a financial reporter are now working.

In their VIP box, I could see quite a few mainland clients who were apparently trying to make sense of the game.

As one of the Mason hosts told me, Peregrine was one of major sponsors of Sevens in 1997, or before everyone else became a sponsor of the event.

Indeed, you can’t consider yourself as belonging to the Big League unless you have your logo in the Sevens.

Oh, how Hong Kong has changed over the past 20 years since the handover.

But Rugby Sevens lives on, and is as popular as ever, because it is an annual ritual that reminds Hong Kong people of the good old colonial days.

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EJ Insight writer

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