A funny thing happened on the way to the Hong Kong Stadium for the Sevens – free beer ... yes, free beer
All the positive karma in the universe will not deliver such a delicious fate of a frosty cold one being handed to you with a warm smile
Twenty years and counting and there has probably been no better start to this event for me. Coming out of Causeway Bay’s MTR station and throwing yourself into a heaving mosh pit of humanity, dripping from the indigenous blanket of humidity, you make your way towards Hong Kong Stadium.
It’s hot and getting hotter, yet through the haze of perspiration a sweet voice beckons: “Free beer!”
Ah OK, this can’t be much more than a mirage in the middle of the desert. But, no, lo and behold a comely lass with a welcoming smile hands me a freezing cold can of beer. It’s not the official tournament tipple, mind you. This one is from a fairly prolific Belgian brewer whose initials are the same as San Antonio.
“So what’s the catch,” I ask. “No, no catch,” she replies. “It’s free, so enjoy.”
Well then, there are moments in our life, and in particular our life in Hong Kong, where you need to take stock of your lot and perhaps give thanks to whoever put you in a place where frosty cold free beer is handed to you with a warm smile.
All the positive karma in the universe will not deliver such a delicious fate. There are simply very few places in the world where beer is free.
In fact, judging by the reaction from the suddenly swelling crowd around the free froth, there are none.
There are three Spaniards with a big smile – Alan, Makel and Viona – two from Barcelona and one from Madrid. “This is the best event,” says Makel.
Even better than El Clasico, the legendary soccer clashes between Barcelona and Real Madrid? “Totally different vibe, this event is fun, by far the most fun,” says Alan.
And do they have free beer at El Clasico? “Never,” says Makel.
Almost on cue a Scottish guy named Mike hands me a beer that he doesn’t have time to drink and I mention to him that it seems like some kind of perverse alternate universe where you have too much free beer.
He ponders it for a second before popping the can open. “You know what, I’ve just decided I’m going to drink it,” he says. “I’m almost bound by duty.”
Of course, too much of a good thing is not always a good thing. There is little doubt that some tend to overdo the booze on Sevens weekend and by Monday morning the legacy of head-shattering hangovers around town is prolific.
But despite all that, and it is nothing to be dismissive about, traditionally there have been few reports of drunken brawls. Those who can and do drink responsibly see the value in free-beer diplomacy.
Ava and Kim are in from Seoul to enjoy the weekend’s proceedings and when I ask Ava if there are any other places in the world where they give you free beer, she ponders it for a moment.
“Actually no, I have to say,” she replies.
Isn’t that remarkable?
“No, it’s awesome, I love it,” she adds in a restrained tone.
Things are a little less restrained for a group of boisterous and buoyant South Africans from Durban. Quinzy tells me that free beer may be the recipe for global salvation. “A hundred per cent,” he bellows. “That and saving the whales.”
I ask an American gentleman nearby if free beer would solve all the world’s problems. “It would definitely be a start,” he says. “You know what Benjamin Franklin said, huh? Beer proves that God loves us.”
Right, and free beer would emphatically confirm the existence of God.
Inside the stadium though, there is no proof yet that any kind of celestial body has been at work. The beer is not free and there is no word whether the official supplier will drop the paywall for the weekend in the name of global peace.
But you do what you have got to do and the bills have to be paid. After all, it’s still a corporate town run by tycoons and their kin.
However, next time you go on a rant about the evil property cartel who heartlessly jack up the prices on everything you cherish, at least now you know why.
There is a premium to be paid to live in a place where a frosty free beer comes with a warm smile.