A gauntlet of greed, and joy for a nation in need
There was fancy footwork aplenty at the Hong Kong Sevens yesterday, and that was just outside the ground.
As always, the scene was colourful, the fans hugely appreciative and there was great rugby.
But on the back of a rash of fake tickets, a larger than usual number of touts tried to cash in.
At least 50 fans who had flown in from Sydney, Dubai and Singapore were refused entry on Friday after stadium staff found the tickets they bought over the internet were fakes. Police said that 18 people had filed complaints.
Touts were quoting a price of HK$3,000 for a ticket for yesterday's action. One tout said tickets for yesterday's games were to have been offered for HK$1,500 but that after they got wind of the fake ticket con they doubled the price. A ticket to today's action will cost HK$1,500, one tout said, since Sunday at the Sevens is less popular than Saturday.
Those caught in the scam bought their tickets through two websites; ticketfinders.com.au, which is based in Sydney, and ticketlister.com, based in Britain and Dubai. Including air fares and hotels, the unlucky rugby supporters spent between A$5,000 and A$6,000 (HK$39,600 and HK$47,500) to see the Sevens.
Despite the presence of security staff at the ticket redemption office - where those with fake tickets were asked to go to yesterday - touts were milling around the area hoping to sell to upset and frustrated fans.
Between 25 and 30 touts lined the route to the Hong Kong Stadium in So Kon Po.
The tournament's organiser, the Hong Kong Rugby Football Union, said all tickets had been sold through official channels and that if fans bought tickets elsewhere they could not guarantee they were valid or available.
On the pitch, some of the big guns looked unimpressive. New Zealand struggled to overcome Portugal 19-12 and France 19-7, while Japan matched England 14-14 at half-time before falling 33-14 and the United States made the men in white sweat before going down 37-12.
Russia won through to the final day of the top-tier competition, the Cup, for the first time.
The quarter-finals today will see New Zealand play Portugal again, while Russia have a big task taking on England. The other match-ups will be tougher, with Fiji meeting South Africa and Samoa up against Australia.
The Japanese team, whose arrival in Hong Kong was delayed because of the deaths and devastation wrought by the massive earthquake and tsunami on March 11, scored a memorable first victory at the tournament, a 17-12 win over China.
The win was part of another memorable Saturday at the home of sevens rugby, with plenty to admire in the stands as well as on the pitch - among them women, and some men, in costumes inspired by Natalie Portman's Oscar-winning ballerina role in Black Swan, and several Colonel Gaddafis strutting their stuff.
Banker Stephen Smith, dressed as Fred Flintstone and waving a club, summed up the mood best with a shout of 'Yabba dabba doo!'
Who could argue with that?