Stop sterilising the Sevens – moving kick-off concert indoors is how to spoil a party, Hong Kong-style
The Hong Kong Sevens may be a raucous week but it’s a part of what makes this city great and needs to be protected from party poopers and the fun police
What would we do without the Environmental Protection Department? Thankfully they are here to protect us from a dastardly outdoors pop concert that takes place one night a year and finishes by 10pm.
While they’re at it, maybe they could find some silencers for the sound of pneumatic drills and lorries during the interminable, round-the-clock construction work that goes on every day all across Hong Kong Island.
Maybe they would be so kind as to turn the volume down on those bloody taxi horns, as much as I enjoy the melody of honking every lunchtime and rush hour.
Or come and shut down the weekly protest/funfair/market/school parade/pageant in Southorn Playground that wakes me up every Sunday morning with their marching bands and microphones.
OK, I’ll stop being facetious. But it’s pretty appalling that the Hong Kong Sevens kick-off concert has been moved indoors from outside the Indian Recreation Club at the Sevens Village in So Kon Po to Queen Elizabeth Stadium because of noise complaints from residents, with restrictions now placed on drinking.
The usual grumbles will be starting up soon about how the Sevens gives Hong Kong a bad name with the drunk tourists it attracts.
Far from it – I wouldn’t be here right now if it wasn’t for the Sevens (what a loss that would be to you readers), having first come on holiday to the city for the 2015 event. It was so good I came back a year later, and then moved here.
A recent addition to the line-up before the rugby gets going at the weekend, I went to the kick-off concerts both times, and covered last year’s edition. With the show, Sevens week has been building to becoming an ideal event for tourists and locals alike, and what better way to start it with a memorable night of musical nostalgia in front of the city’s spectacular skyline backdrop.
Now what? Well, we’re going to stuff a couple thousand people into a sweaty stadium when UB40 come to town on April 5.
Oh, and when the legendary British reggae pop band play Red Red Wine, you won’t be able to hold a glass of the stuff up because you’re only allowed to drink in the lobby and not the concert area at Queen Elizabeth Stadium.
It’s all thanks to the noise police at the EPD, who turned up last year with a little decibel reader to measure the sound level when Madness were blasting out their party hits.
But hey, the folks down in So Kon Po won’t have to be burdened by a couple of hours of live music.
The Hong Kong Rugby Union have no blame in any of this – they’ve tried their best to appease the EPA and unfortunately logic and common sense have lost out.
“Staying in compliance by finding a suitable venue to cater for the size of the kick-off concert, Queen Elizabeth Stadium became a pretty decent choice,” said Rocky Chow Sze-ho, chief commercial officer at HKRU.
But the organisers will no doubt be upset at having to switch venues. It’s a shame – last year there were people dancing in fancy dress and children playing all while enjoying what was on offer at pop-up food stalls and craft beer stands, with Hong Kong Sevens and Fiji legend Waisale Serevi walking around mingling with fans and taking pictures.
Now we’re going to have everyone sat down in a sterile stadium atmosphere while half the crowd crams into the lobby during the music to take a drink or a bite to eat.
The show must go on, though, and no doubt the HKRU will still put on the best event they can.
But where do we draw the line? The Sevens is the one event that brings a global audience to Hong Kong every year – it should be cherished, celebrated and embraced.
Yes, there is noise and people acting in an uncouth manner for a week and over 100,000 tourists pour into the city for a wild party. But we shouldn’t bow to pressure from the noise police. Hong Kong is hardly an oasis of serenity – it’s a throbbing, sweaty metropolis of sight and sound that swarms the senses. In a good way.
Sadly, shutting down a good time seems to be becoming the Hong Kong way of doing things.
Maybe karma will do us a favour and a big construction project will kick off around about 7pm on April 5 in So Kon Po and the residents can listen to bulldozers every day for five years.
Thing is, not one of them who moaned about Madness playing too loud last year would complain about that.