Sevens extravaganza worth its weight in gold

PUBLISHED : Monday, 31 March, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 31 March, 2008, 12:00am

There are precious few annual events that truly put Hong Kong at the centre of the international stage. One, the Hong Kong Rugby Sevens, has just ended and, as usual, during the three days our city garnered avid attention from nations where the sport is followed.

Along with the Hong Kong Jockey Club's International Races, the Sevens is our leading spectator sporting carnival. Hundreds of players and tens of thousands of fans come from overseas to celebrate a homegrown event that has gone international.

Celebrate they most certainly do. The party atmosphere that descends on the city is infectious. Raucous singing, garish costumes complete with wigs and beer-swilling are the order of the event, both at the Hong Kong Stadium and in entertainment venues after each day's matches.

The event is not to everyone's liking. Fans of the traditional 15-a-side version of rugby frown upon it, while more staid members of the community dislike the antics of the spectators. The game is more associated with foreigners, although a wider Chinese player and fan base is gradually being built up.

There are always pitch-invaders at the stadium during the final and incidents among fans in the stands or at bars who imbibe one drink too many. New Zealand's win this year was not to everyone's liking and some spectators showed displeasure by pushing and shoving. But such incidents were isolated and fortunately did not detract from the success of the tournament.

Whatever the dislikes or objections, though, there is no escaping the value of the Sevens to Hong Kong. It enhances our international image through reports in foreign media, live television coverage and video replays. The influx of tourist dollars to our shops, restaurants and bars are welcomed with open arms by owners.

There can be no underestimating the value of the Sevens. Internationally, it raises our image, while locally, it fosters community spirit. The party is over for another year and the foreign players and fans are returning home. Hong Kong can be proud that an event we call our own has again passed off so successfully.