Best seats in the house? Depends on your point of view
From flying high in luxury boxes to economy class in the South Stand
For some, a patron's pass to the private boxes is just the ticket. Others who like a great view head for the top of the East and West Stands, affectionately referred to as 'the nosebleeds'. And then, there's the South Stand.
Like an aircraft's seating plan, the stadium this weekend can be broken down into first class, business class and economy. In that equation, if you're in the corporate boxes, you're flying first class.
To many, those boxes are the Holy Grail of Sevens seating. The escalators to the top flight are the stairways to rugby heaven that send a message to colleagues, clients and peers, screaming 'Je suis arrive!'
For companies who outlay the dollars to give their clients and colleagues a soft landing at the Sevens, no expense is spared in the strictly 'by invitation only' zone.
Drop-dead gorgeous dancing girls and models dressed to the box's themes float on through interiors created by top set designers. DJs and open bars complete the picture of luxury and cool, creating an ambience that verges on performance art.
Whereas some corporate boxes have a 'closed door, clients only' policy and act as a quiet retreat from the masses below (allowing those inside to discuss the latest deal), others have open doors, open bars and a college frat-house atmosphere of 'party, party, party'.
For some companies the sky's the limit. Take the recent history of Deutsche Bank's box. In 2003 it went Woodstock, with a 'peace, love and rugby' theme. The walls to the box were covered with electric blue fur and enormous peace signs, while inflatable guitars were given away by the thousand. In 2004 their box looked like a Bollywood film set as many guests donned the giveaway orange turbans and robes. And 2005 was marked by can-can dancers under the Moulin Bleu concept, blue being the bank's identifying colour. 'This is one of the best networking events in Hong Kong,' says a bank spokesman. 'It's not only great rugby but an opportunity to socialise with clients and build relationships and that's the pay off.'
Other companies see their box as less a tool for softening up clients and more a chance to thank the staff and give them some time out with their families.
'Every year, we take an enclosed corporate box downstairs right on the edge of the pitch,' says Anson Bailey from KPMG. 'It has great views and you really are 'up close and personal' with the rugby. Business is a secondary motive for us. In our box we like to create the feeling that this is very much a family weekend.'
The upper reaches of the East and West Stands, the business class of our example, have their advocates, too.
'I head there every year with a group of my colleagues,' says a construction project director, who prefers the east side of the nosebleeds. 'We study the form, and decide which games we want to watch with a bird's eye perspective of all the stadium. It's a complete view of the game that you can't get from anywhere else. Then we duck downstairs for a quick beer.
'I suppose you could say it's the perfect area for us engineers and old Sevens hands who don't need to go flat out. It's a sustainable mix of rugby and drinking.'
From the cosseted comfort of the corporate boxes to the South Stand may be a distance of only a few dozen metres but it's like another world. 'I am well over 40 and won't queue for a bar anymore - not anywhere in the world. But I'll still queue for over an hour to get into the South Stand,' says dentist Chris Long, who is still a keen player but becomes an equally keen fan at this time of year.
Rob Naylor, who played in two Sevens in 2002 and 2005, and has watched 17 tournaments from the South Stand, explains the 'Southie' demographic this way: 'I'm too young to sit in the West Stand but too old to play.'
Says another diehard dress-up veteran: 'Give me crowded toilets, outrageous French-hating exhibitionists, and the pies any day, compared to the canapes and introverted bankers in the boxes. Everyone is your pal in the South Stand!'