Hong Kong Sevens
The Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens 2013 is an international rugby tournament that begins on Friday March 22 and features 28 of the world's top rugby teams.
Astronauts (and an alien) touch down in So Kon Po
The Upper East side of New York conjures all sorts of images, but with eight astronauts and one alien entertaining corporates with an outfit that became a comedy improv show, it was clear the impromptu crowd was on a cloud of laughter.
"Here's how we do the space drift," said Stephen Gore, as he detached himself from a pile of stacked chairs and spun around as though he were at zero gravity in outer space, cast adrift from a spaceship.
Others moonwalked in slow motion. Then there was the astronaut version of the Harlem Shake, recorded outside one of the myriad boxes. "We've all got helmets, so who's going to be the guy to start?" said Chad Parker.
"We worked on these outfits for months," said Gore. "We had all the usual sorts of debates dress-up squads have: Should we have the authentic-looking Nasa space packs attached to our backs air-conditioned with extractors for our comfort? Should we have a press-button power visor on our helmets? Where should we have zippers? How long will bathroom trips take in these moonwalking suits as they're practically hermetically sealed?"
Button-downed bankers this weekend they clearly were not.
"We are surprised the alien is still with us, he's a tourist, but then all aliens are tourists. We plan an autopsy after the event. With no probes," said one nameless astronaut behind his visor. "Everyone thinks they are in So Kon Po, but it's really Area 52," added Gore.
Clearly they were not Lost In Space, even if the space-time continuum of the Sevens means that time somehow drifts into a black hole, until next year. And then again, the Sevens fun will go to infinity, and beyond.
Some couples just go Bananas in Wan Chai
The antics at the stadium have become legend and lore for players and supporters alike. Then there's the third half of the game, notorious exploits in which Joe Bananas (aka JBs) often gets a mention. Everyone has a story.
Scottish player Andy Nicol met his wife in JBs. "It's the most expensive drink I ever had, I'm still paying for it," he said, tongue in cheek at the HKRFU's Long Lunch late last year.
"Don't let it slip away" is not only featured on the T-shirts of Joe Bananas, for many it could be a motto as they slipped and fell - in love. "There should be a Facebook page, 'We met at Joe Bananas'," laughs outrigger canoe and dragon boat paddler Cheryl Fender, who met banker husband Darren in the bar in 1998.
"I was in Hong Kong for a three-week assignment as an assistant choreographer. He was on a one-week assignment as a broker. When I got back to Cheshire, he rang me 11 times a day from London."
Within six months, Darren was offered a job and the couple were back in Hong Kong to live. Two children later, the rest is history, thanks to the power of attraction that took hold under the bar's fake swaying palms in JBs previous incarnation.
There were no palms but plenty of fun in the BGC box, where the couple were spotted yesterday. A broking firm with a rugby bent, BGC sponsors BGC APB, the team formerly known as the Asia Pacific Barbarians, who failed to defend their title at the GFI HKFC Tens, as well as giving generously to the Christchurch earthquake appeal in 2011 with money raised during Sevens week.
Several sports stars - from rugby to cricket - have met their spouses in JBs. Some people find late-night Wan Chai so much fun it's stupid, whereas others just find cupid.
Ticket to ride
It may be Monday, the sevens may have ended, taking its toll on sleep, cash and brain cells, and you may be suffering Depresso - the feeling you get when you run out of coffee. However, we must "Keep Calm and Carry On".
The slogan was plastered on propaganda posters by the British government in 1939. Designed to keep up the morale of the masses, they never saw the light of day until they were unearthed in 2000.
For years, the BT box has done more than its bit to boost the morale of the Sevens fan. Each year they look to something essentially British as the basis of their theme. They've had yellow submarines with the Beatles and London Olympics.
This year, four new graduate students came up with the transport theme to celebrate 150 years of the London Underground. On one wall was a large, life-like train that looks so realistic you want to step aboard; on another a map of the London Underground with a difference.
Said Kevin Taylor, BT president of Asia, Africa and Middle East: "This year's Sevens are as fun as ever and our box represents more than 170 cities we operate in. In fact, the London Tube map on the wall depicts our offices around the world. As the rugby is all about being global so is our company, and every year it's great to be associated with the Sevens."
While the box is always one of the most fun and former players and teams from Wales to England breeze in and out, it's clear the up-beat corporate culture is set by the rugby-fervent Taylor, who is also chairman of mini rugby for Hong Kong Football Club.
Parents play 'I Spy' on their kids
Mae West said: "It's better to be looked over than overlooked." But exactly who watches who?
One top executive who would prefer to remain nameless was busy in his box - not just with his colleagues and clients. He spent a fair part of the weekend eyes focused on his daughter in the South Stand. In fact, the word is that's why he's opted for this box in this particular position, as it gives a decent vantage on the South Stand's Falstaffian tavern antics.
Normal rivalry between the Sai Kung Stingrays and geographically closest team, DeA Tigers, is put aside as they watch each others' kids from exactly equidistant positions in the East and West Stands.
Says Paula Ewart, under-12 girl's manager for Stingrays, and parent of Kiera 12, and Kyla 10, who play for the same club: "The parents have an unspoken code the kids don't know about. Across the pitch, we watch the DeA kids, they are keeping an eye ours on the Stingrays.
"It's amazing what you can do with your eyes peeled and a mobile phone at the ready to contact parents across the pitch if the kids are up to any mischief."
Waxing lyrical in Wenglish
According to Martin Hills' wife, his Welsh accent comes back when Wales enjoy a rugby win and he sounds like Uncle Bryn in the UK television comedy Gavin and Stacey.
The Deloittes partner was full of Welsh humour in his company's corporate box.
Being self-effacing and taking the mickey out of yourself is just part of the Welsh character as Hills proved by citing English sportswriter Mark Reason's amusing observation: "The job of a Welsh coach is like a minor part in a Quentin Tarantino film: you stagger on, you hallucinate, and nobody seems to understand a word you say."
Hills quotes Welsh player Mike Watkins, on playing at Lansdowne Road in Dublin, as saying: "I didn't know what was going on at the start in the swirling wind. The flags were all pointing in different directions, and I thought the Irish had starched them just to fool us."
The Welsh flag was flying in the Deloittes box all right, as it does every year. There were plenty of Englishmen putting up with it, as well as accepting the ribbing about England's Sweet Chariot having turned into a discarded shopping trolley after the previous weekend's Six Nations finale when Wales triumphed.
As Jonathan Davies, who was acting as an HSBC ambassador hopping between the box and the Sevens Village, once said, and Hills reprised: "I think you enjoy the game more if you don't know the rules. Anyway, you're on the same wavelength as the referees."
Of Wales' performance at the Sevens, at least Hills wasn't driven to prayer. If he was, it may be this one:
"Our Father who art in Millennium,
Henson be thy name,
Thy grand slam come,
Tries will be done,
By Jones, Peel and Williams.
Give us this day our 'Bread of Heaven',
And forgive us our offside,
As we ruck those who trespass against us and lead us into bad discipline,
But deliver us from England,
For Wales is the kingdom, the dragon and the daffodil.
For ever and ever.