Posted by: Sam Olsen | March 25, 2012

Sevens Heaven

Having a small boy makes Sunday lie-ins a far-off dream. In fact, it currently feels like I have put my head in a washing machine full of spanners. So while I am up I might as well share my sevens fun with you.

Friday night was the start of the tournament. All the action happens in the 40,000 seater Hong Kong Stadium, which as you can imagine is jammed to the rafters with a mainly male and non-Chinese crowd. With people still recovering from the Hong Kong Rugby Tens, a different tournament held at HK Football Club on Wednesday and Thursday, most of my friends did not make Friday a late night. Which is a good thing as I had to set my alarm for 7am Saturday morning.

Kim Jong Il didn’t let death get in the way of rugby

The reason for the early start was that we had to be in the South Stand before 8.30 to make sure we got some seats. For those not familiar with the South Stand, it is very much akin to the Western Terrace at Headingly or the Eric Hollies stand at Edgbaston. Comparisons with which probably don’t do much for the vast majority of you that don’t tour the provincial cricket grounds of England. So perhaps it is best to say that this particular end of the HK Stadium is where compulsory fancy dress meets chronic consumption of beer and the occasional beef pie.

My pal Ali and I sat down at our seats at 8.30 and there were already people in trouble. Steep concrete stairs are not such an easy climb for some, especially those over indulging themselves in the ubiquitous 2-pint plastic glasses of Carlsberg. One fat, balding guy in too-tight shorts took a hurtle down the steps, and another lad was probably a bit startled to find that his vault over the fence around the stairwell led to a 20 foot drop onto a hapless beer-seller. I assume they were OK.

So with the carnage starting before the rugby had even been mentioned (save for a few kids games on the pitch) it was heading for a long day. Aside from the sport, we were mightily entertained by the fancy dress. With 24 nations competing there were representatives from all over the world, even a troop of Rwandan Stormtroopers who whistled, sang and danced the whole day behind us. We couldn’t work out what the girls dressed in airmail envelopes and wearing white veils for a while. Aha! Mail order brides. And a group of Smurfs appeared in front of us, wearing white pants and tights and some apt headgear, leaving their torsos exposed but covered in blue body paint. Which unfortunately didn’t block out the UV from the getting-quite-hot sun, so as the day progressed they all turned a nice shade of red.

Anyone order a bride?

Ali and I were dressed in standard Mexican outfits, with ponchos, small guitars and glorious moustaches. Although there were quite a few Mexicans in the stand (none of them real, I should imagine) no one had sombreros as large as ours. Three and a half feet of hat takes some beating.

As might be imagined, there is an extraordinarily very friendly atmosphere. Except that is when the French are playing: as soon as Les Bleus took to the field the chant started, “Stand up if you hate the French”. Cue the stadium racing to its feet. The smurfs, who had been standing all day, kept on their feet despite them being from Paris: self-loathing is a terrible thing.

The beer and pie throwing started at a little before lunch time. At least, I think it was beer. Given the queues for the mens loos there is a good chance it wasn’t – which is why we had seated ourselves way up at the top of the stand. (For some reason, the line for the (four) mens cubicles was astronomical, 20 or 30 strong. Being a cleaner for the stand’s lavatories is probably one of the world’s worst jobs.) Despite this, I was assured by the HK7s veterans around me that this behaviour was nothing like it used to be. Gone are the days when the beer-sellers, normally acne-riven teenagers, were passed up and down the crowd. Or when the crowd decided to make a mountain out of plastic beer pitchers on the try line, which disappointingly the referee said interfered with the game.

Rwandan Starwars

With an atmosphere like this, the day passed very quickly. We were away from the stadium before the end, anticipating a huge surge to the tube station, and headed back to our (patient) wives for supper and an early night. All ready for today’s action. Life is rather tough sometimes.

Carnage Central

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