Hong Kong Sevens

Ardent fan just keeps coming back

PUBLISHED : Monday, 26 March, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 26 March, 2012, 12:00am

Professor Judith Mackay, OBE (and ardent Sevens fan), does not look like your average radical. She has been an anti-smoking activist and was offered 24-hour protection by the Hong Kong police due to her beliefs.

These days, she advises governments and the WHO and is a key part of the anti-tobacco lobby. 'Eventually, radicals grow older and wiser and they learn to work within the system,' she says.

Always a proponent of health and exercise (and a dab hand with a tai chi sword), it's no surprise she is a fan of rugby.

Mackay hails from Saltburn by the Sea and arrived in Hong Kong in 1967. Her husband, John, had preceded her arriving in 1963.

They believe they have been to every one of the 37 Hong Kong Sevens. 'I don't recount that we've missed one,' she says. 'We have so many pictures of the various years.

'From its inception the tournament created so much goodwill, Although it has changed and evolved over the years, there's always been so much camaraderie and a carnival spirit in the stands. I remember the Australian team being booed for a foul in the 1980s and that never seems to have stopped.'

The couple's collective Sevens memory bank includes the big storms of 1992. 'It was a quagmire. The weather at the Sevens is as unpredictable as the winner. Some years, I remember it being so hot it was almost unbearable and people had to contend with sunstroke,' she says.

Judith has done her bit to protect the health of all at So Kon Po - on and off the pitch.

'After lobbying for several decades, smoking was banned in the turf pitch areas and spectator stands at the Hong Kong Stadium in 2005, effective from 2006, after which it became so much more pleasant to attend,' says Judith, who holds a Silver Bauhinia Star, an award given to those who play a key part in improving Hong Kong.

The Mackays enjoy good health, although in 2008 Judith broke her ankle in three places and came to the stadium in a wheelchair.

'I wrote to the stadium to thank them ... When you are a doctor who becomes a patient, it's very eye opening,' she says.