Safety stepped up for Sevens

THE already stringent safety measures employed at the Hongkong Stadium over the Sevens weekend are to be further tightened for next month's rugby tournament in the light of the Lan Kwai Fong tragedy.

The Hongkong Rugby Football Union (HKRFU) said yesterday it intended doubling the number of stewards in the stadium and initiating a public awareness campaign before the March 27-28 tournament.

Although the 40,000-seat stadium will not be completed until next year, it will be opened with a reduced capacity of 33,000 for the Sevens.

Police officers inspected the site last week and are finalising evacuation plans in conjunction with the HKRFU.

The design of the stadium allows for a capacity crowd to be evacuated in 11 minutes. Although there will be a reduced crowd at the Sevens, a spokesman for the stadium builders said all necessary emergency exits and escape avenues would be operating during the event.

HKRFU chief executive Mr Dave Roberts said the number of stewards, drawn from the Black Watch regiment, would be doubled to about 250 to help spectators and monitor the crowd.

''The stadium is absolute state-of-the-art as far as safety specifications are concerned. But because it's not finished, we are taking more precautions than usual,'' he said.

The HKRFU has also checked with the head of the independent inquiry into the Lan Kwai Fong tragedy, Mr Justice Bokhary, to ascertain any specific issues of which the organisers should be aware.

Mr Justice Bokhary yesterday said HKRFU chairman Mr Stuart Leckie had approached him in early January about crowd control and he had provided advice.