Stories from the South Stand at the Hong Kong Sevens – broken arms, survival instinct, war and weddings
Going to the South Stand is a unique experience fuelled by alcohol, a party atmosphere and a self-perpetuating legend
It seems everyone who has visited the South Stand at the Hong Kong Sevens has a weird and wonderful story about their experience.
The unique blend of alcohol and a pressure to live up to the stand’s famous name creates a moral vacuum where upstanding members of society descend to their primal states.
As I asked rugby fans for their most memorable tales, one first-timer told me he had been given plenty of advice on how to survive the Saturday.
“The words of wisdom I’ve had regarding the Sevens makes me question whether I’m going to war or a sporting event,” he said, wishing to remain anonymous along with all the others in this story.
Most people shared disgusting stories involving urine – drunk expats relieving themselves into empty beer glasses is the norm in the South Stand, before launching the cup forward onto an unsuspecting victim a few rows away.
But I heard tales of drunkards relieving themselves into other people’s mouths for “banter” – I have a different definition of what constitutes banter it would seem.
Fortunately, other South Standers were willing to share less horrid stories.
A veteran of six tournaments recalled the time he had worn an old gas mask as part of his costume, and had it filled with drink like some kind of first world war beer bong.
“As soon as the beer gets above your nose survival instincts kick in – it’s either drink or drown,” he said.
One die hard Sevens fan broke her arm two years ago, but refused to miss the famous final.
“I slipped and knew it was broken. But with only an hour until the closing fireworks, a makeshift sling from a discarded costume and another Pimms were my medical care,” she said.
She went straight to hospital after the closing ceremony and spent the next six weeks in a cast – but regretted nothing.
For one veteran of nearly 30 sevens tournaments there were almost too many stories to choose from.
But this morning one tale sprung to mind involving a bet.
He said he saw one fan promise another HK$20,000 if he could pitch invade, run the length of the field and touch the North Stand.
“He reached the 22 and was tackled by security,” he recalled. “You could see him begging security to let him go just to the North Stand.”
The story teller is adamant the security understood the runner’s woes and let him complete the journey North before arresting him, but I suspect alcohol is clouding his memory.
Three years ago, I was part of a unique experience. Two close friends were engaged and wished to perform their wedding ceremony in the South Stand.
I became ordained via a suspiciously easy process online and planned the service for 2pm, but we had to bring it forward to 9.30am when it became clear the happy couple might be too inebriated by early afternoon.
The ushers and bridesmaids lined the staircase and the crowd gathered behind us, singing the tune of Here Comes The Bride as the bride climbed the aisle.
With the help of the organisers, “you may now kiss the bride” was announced on the speakers as the service concluded. It was a magical moment that most of the guests (and probably the couple) struggle to remember on account of the litre cups of beer.
They are still happily married to this day.
Another rugby fan told me his friend and drinking companion overindulged one year.
“We saw him getting carried out on a stretcher by the medics,” he said. “Then about an hour later, after receiving a drip and some medical care, he reappeared in the South Stand, fist pumped the air, screamed ‘YEAH!’ and got back on it.”
One unfortunate South Stand attendee woke up to the sound of banging. He took in his surroundings and realised he had fallen asleep in the women’s toilets.
He burst out of the cubical to find security were the ones bashing on the door. He made a break for it, but when he re-entered the stadium it was empty and dark. He had slept right through the end of the tournament and into the night.
A mad dash for the exit and an impressive vault of the fence saved him from the hands of the security guards. Like a fancily dressed Forrest Gump, he kept running until he reached Carnegies.
With the South Stand in full flight already – what memories are being created as we speak?