24-Hour Party People: the ultimate drinking challenge of the Sevens
Rugby World Cup-winning former England star joins in with revellers in the pure carnage on the streets of Wan Chai, Central, Soho and Tsim Sha Tsui
More than any other day of the crazy annual rugby blowout, Sevens Saturday shows just how small a place Hong Kong is.
Perhaps no other global sporting nirvana sees such casual mingling between players, coaches, celebrities, fans and pundits once they have emptied out of the stadium into the streets to sample the local nightlife.
It would likely be a once-in-a-lifetime chance encounter to run into a Rugby World Cup-winning former England star in the streets of London, bar the concourses at Twickenham.
But to see his imposing frame wander into the sozzled crowd spilling outside the White Stag in Lockhart Road, before again seeing him several hours later clambering past you up the cobbles on Pottinger Street into Central watering hole Sapphire – better known as the Bar With No Name – is a fairly impressive freak experience.
Throw in the fact my older brother from London, visiting for the Sevens, also flew out on the same flight as him from Heathrow, and it is just plain spooky.
The legend was mobbed for selfies from any and every stumbling reveller who recognised him at both haunts. The poor bloke – he just wanted to enjoy some good old-fashioned Sevens drinking in peace like the rest of us.
To his credit he was friendly and approachable, and seemed genuinely shy about all the attention he was receiving.
The clamouring from fans for a signature and a handshake could have been worse – luckily for him, many of those around were likely so plastered already, the fact they were standing a few feet away from an English rugby stalwart skipped their attention entirely.
That was certainly the case for one poor soul in Sapphire, who spent the entire two hours I was there slumped on a sofa with his feet propped up on a table and his hands clutching at first a plastic bag next to his mouth, before he later upgraded into to a bin.
It is understandable. Sevens Saturday is the ultimate drinking challenge for every hardcore rugby fan. With barely – if any – sleep after the finish to Friday’s fun, the Saturday drinking starts shortly after sunrise as the South Stand fills up with the most raucous of revellers.
A human sea of costumed craziness drinks its way through a gamut of Carlsberg by the litre, with flying cups of urine descending from upon high in the stand to the unlucky buggers sat further down. They should have got there earlier to ensure a safer vantage point – you snooze you lose.
The inebriation was surely only further fueled by a raucous, groove-inducing Hong Kong Stadium set from Madness – never has a more aptly-named band performed there. It’s thirsty work swinging your hips out there in the Hong Kong heat.
Some can’t handle the pace and slink out early before all of the actual rugby – yes, that thing that is happening behind you - has finished. But those emboldened souls who stay the course venture into the night on the back of a solid 12 hours of drinking.
It results in pure carnage on the streets of Wan Chai, Central, Soho and Tsim Sha Tsui in particular, where you play one night-long game of hopscotch jumping out of the way of puddles of vomit, mounds of cigarette butts and shards of shattered pint glasses.
Before you know it, it’s sunrise again, and you’ve come full circle from the South Stand 24 hours ago.
When D’Aguilar Street is finally opened up to traffic again, heralding the arrival of the cleaning crews and delivery trucks carrying Sunday’s supplies for anyone left standing, it is probably time to go around the corner to the cab rank, and be on your merry way home.