Since the day I met my husband, I’ve been hearing about what he considers to be the lion of all sporting events, the most glorious event to exist on this and all other planets, the event that until one attends she will remain unwhole– the Hong Kong Rugby Sevens.
My husband is a die-hard rugby fan, and in particular, a Welsh Rugby fan. He, like many British boys, grew up playing and following the sport. And his love of rugby has only grown stronger every year since. He watches it, talks incessantly about it, and still plays it (at his age? I know). I’d say he’s been having a torrid love affair with this sport for years. But that wouldn’t describe the relationship accurately. Love affairs sizzle and eventually burn out. No, for him, rugby is more like a life partner, the one with whom he watches “How I Met Your Mother” marathons, who’s seen him at his worst, the one he will take to Sizzler for Malibu chicken every Sunday when they are old, the love of his life for whom he will drop everything else, for whom he will die…
Part of my excitement about moving to Hong Kong was that I would FINALLY be able to attend the Sevens. And my first time was going to be particularly great being that we’d be going with Peter’s parents and brother Geoff who had flown into Hong Kong from England. We’d been able to snag tickets for all of us for all 3 days, and we were freaking pumped!
The first night was amazing. The stadium is only a 10-minute walk from our apartment, and we could feel the energy pulsing from the stadium from a half mile away. We grabbed seats near the south try line (goal post), got us a bucket of KFC and a pitcher of beer, and watched us some rugby. The weather was glorious, the rugby was exciting and the fans were hyped. Oh yeah, I was into it. But little did I appreciate that Friday was the calm before the storm. I started to get the hint when a friend of mine saw a photo I posted from the stadium and thoughtfully messaged me a “gentle reminder”- “DO NOT LOSE YOUR SHIT TONIGHT!!!” She reminded me to save it all for the next day, Saturday, the day when it all pops off, and that we needed to be at the stadium before 8 a.m. the next morning to secure a spot in the South Stand.
Now let’s talk about the South Stand.
Have you ever gone into a place feeling crazy excited about all the fun you’re about to have, but also terrified that you might also die?
Have you ever consumed nothing but Seabreeze, Bloody Marys and a 1/3 of a meat pie for over 9 hours?
Have you ever seen a bearded Queen Elsa give an extremely overweight David Hasselhoff a wedgie?
Have you ever had a trumpet blown less than a foot away from your ear every 20 seconds for an entire day?
Have you ever eaten the above-mentioned meat pie or remnants thereof off of the armrest of a foldable stadium seat because you dropped it and that’s where it fell and you do NOT want to brave the hour-long line to get another one?
Have you ever forgotten your own name, for just like 10 minutes or something?
Have you ever slept through the entire Village People performance which included the YMCA, that you’d been anxiously awaiting for days?
Have you ever seen a photo of yourself blowing the aforementioned trumpet while wearing a sombrero and sitting upon the shoulders of a stranger?
Have you ever used public bathrooms so filthy that it would have been more sanitary to just go in your pants?
Have you ever woken up the next day with dried blood and lacerations on your hand not knowing how it happened?
Have you ever taken a shower in beer, Seabreeze and, potentially, urine? (When people won’t stop throwing their, hopefully beer-filled, cups into the crowd.)
ALL OF THIS (AND SO MUCH MORE) IS THE SOUTH STAND!
The South Stand is the section of the stadium that is reserved for only the most dedicated, hard-core, and shameless of Hong Kong Sevens attendees and for the most extreme levels of debauchery. It’s exhilarating, hilarious and gross. Everyone dresses up in ridiculous and rather impressive costumes from the common sexy angels to the “ouch! my eyes” naked chefs to the incredible inflatable, flailing tube shaped “air dancer” things that you see at car washes. And everyone, from college cuties to elderly men in their 70’s dressed as Welsh Super Heroes cheer, jeer and party all day long. And we had a blast, even with our last-minute, pulled-together costumes, and lack of electrolytes. And we ended the night somewhere in Wan Chai with friends, where Peter and his brother Geoff found their 11th wind, and all I wanted was a burger and a bed. I dragged myself to the street and put myself in a cab.
We enjoyed the last day of the Sevens, watching the rugby from the shade with Peter’s father, brother, our kids and lots of water. We rooted for Wales, the US, Fiji and Japan. Stella freaked out about the crowds and loud music and clapping and old people dancing (me), and so I left early with her and spent the rest of the evening with Peter’s mother-in-law in the quiet and air-conditioning of our apartment. The boys stayed to watch Fiji beat New Zealand and win the cup final for the 230th time, which is only slightly less the number of times New Zealand has won it. From what I understand, New Zealand and Fiji just more or less hand the cup back and forth from year to year, as if they’re sharing a beer over an appetizer sampler.
Did the Hong Kong Sevens live up to the Peter hype? Yeah, I think it did. Watching an international competition with family and friends and a lively crowd under blue skies in an amazing city while drinking Pimms and sometimes nearly dying of dehydration and nearly contracting whatever diseases you can pick up from human waste, but in the end surviving and enjoying the rugby and time with the family even though you never got to sing Macho Man with The Village People? Yep, it was a pretty kickass time.