You snooze, you lose: How to get the best Sevens seat in the house
Sevens 6am sleepwalkers prove that Zombies really do exist: here are the secrets to getting the prime positions
Denial. Anger. Bargaining. Acceptance. These are the four stages of waking up.
There’s no way around it. No way to sugarcoat it. The best way to get the best seat at the Sevens is to get there early. (However for a very small and barking mad handful, that does not necessarily mean getting up early.)
There are four divergent, discordant groups who unanimously agree to this.
They’ve done it year in, year out. And they know all the tricks, such as leaving your South China Morning Post on the back of your chair – or spread across a row of seats (The early birds know better than to worm their way out of decent manners and good seat etiquette. Respect for fellow sevens somnambulists – aka sleepwalkers – reigns. )
These Sevens subcultures co-exist with happiness and even humour – if such a thing can exist before sunrise. Such is the esprit de corps that is unique to the Hong Kong Sevens.
Group One: The Fervent Fijian Fans and Cool as Cucumber Cook Island Fans, and other assorted South Pacific Island Groups.
Determined not to miss a second of the action after waiting a year for another Hong Kong Sevens to roll around – or a lifetime of waiting to fill a beloved bucket list item – come the Fiji fans and a host of other island nations in spectacular South Pacific splendour.
They don their sarongs of Fiji flags, their moo moo dresses, resplendent with flowers and loud fabrics. These fans dance, sing and bang their tambourines to cheer the day in, determined to not miss a second of the action.
They are as entertaining as the action on the pitch. As one Oxford-educated doctor said one year when he was seated near their camp: “I’ve been watching that woman dance all day. She’s not sat down. Her strength defies medical understanding.”
Footage shows that last year the Fijian fans were laughing, singing and dancing at 6.20am at first light and first in the queues when taxis still needed headlights.
“Wherever I go in the world at any Sevens tournament, the Fijian and South Pacific fans are always the first to arrive. They’re everywhere. It’s been the same for years,” says new Samoa coach Gordon Tietjens.
“There is such sevens passion in the South Pacific, their dedication is infectious. I’d like to see a Samoa Sevens or a Suva Sevens, if there was a place for it in the calendar and we could get the timing right.”
Group Two: Rugby parents and their charges
All over Hong Kong, thousands of parents are getting their children up to go to mini rugby for curtain-raiser games. Many are at the stadium around 6am.
For the Sai Kung Stingrays, there is an army of kids boarding buses at 5:30am.
“When they get to the stadium they are marched into the holding area and filtered with military precision for their six minutes of fame and glory on the Sevens pitch,” says Paula King, Stingrays club secretary.
“The advance corps of seasoned reconnaissance special forces (aka, the mums) establishes a secure hold on a section of the stadium which they will defend to the death for 12 hours each day.”
“My day starts backwards. I wake up tired and go to bed wide awake,” says King.
Group Three: Dress-up doyens
Unicorns, jellyfish, black swans, Borats, boxes of human crayons, Lego people, flight attendants, pilots and Top Gun guys, the off-pitch performance art of the South Stand scallywags is a sight to behold. ‘First in, best dressed’ truly is their mantra.
When you’ve been planning your kit for months , there’s no sleeping in.
They know from years of experience: you snooze, you lose.
These groups are raring to go early, knowing that if they leave it late, the chances of getting seats together in the South Stand will be well, as rare as unicorn droppings.
Laura Denholm, who has been dressed in several costumes with squads of around 30 people in for a few years, says: “Last year, the Ginger (bread) Ninjas were there early, and so were we dressed as strawberries. There were more than a punnet of us, with lights and all. You are just not going to get that many seats if you arrive late, so I was in the queue for the South Stand at 7.30am on the Saturday.”
Group Four: 24-hour party people (in their dreams) who – literally – become the Sevens sleepers
No one is in the stadium before the minis and the Fijians, apart from the rare party goer from the night before.
And no one would recommend this – not the Hong Kong Rugby Union, your doctor, your mother, nor common sense.
The Sevens as a spectator is a game of pace, pace, pace. No need to “go hard” on any night, or else you runs the risk of sleeping in your seat and missing the whole day’s action.
There are plenty of YouTube clips of people who’ve fallen asleep in their seats and borne the brunt of this massive Sevens fail.
Miraculously, last year, the queues for the South Stand after Friday last year were ridiculously short. So the moral of the story is go home if you party after the Sevens. Sleep it off and come back to the stadium revived.
‘You’ll see the odd party person waiting for the doors to open so they can get their seat and have a good sleep! Check out the Mexican and the chicken from 2011,”says Paula King.
The sombrero covering his sleeping face doubles as a great set of airline sleeping goggles and sunblock.
But did he wake up in time to enjoy it