Rugby 7s week in Hong Kong is the equivalent of Chinese New Year for the expatriate community. Most of the 30,000 or so expats turn up for the 3 day rugby extravaganza, the adults in the more respectable stands, their children (if they can get away with pretending to be over 18) in the infamous South Stand, wearing fancy dress and dancing all through the event. And it is also a party for over 20,000 rugby lovers from all round South East Asia, with those young or drunk enough joining in the South Stand. The 40,000 seater Hong Kong stadium is filled to capacity each day and tickets are only available on the black market.
Seven a side rugby has been scheduled for the 2016 Olympics (for the first time since 1924) and so countries around the world are taking it seriously. There is an organised world series and qualifying points picked up in Hong Kong this year help towards entry in prestigious events around the world which in turn will determine Olympics entry. So even the less important matches matter. Teams eliminated from the main competition move gradually into the Plate, Bowl and Shield. Teams from places as far flung as Jamaica, Zimbabwe and Argentina joined the contest. Yesterday, the defending champions Fiji kept their title, giving New Zealand a 14 point start in the semis and still coming back to win and Wales a 19 point start in the final and yet again winning convincingly.
The event probably is a net boost to the Hong Kong economy. Estimates for last year suggest a US$40 million boost from tourism and other spending. My rough and ready calculation suggests that the impact this year would have been noticeably more – closer to US$60 million – though this does not take account of any lost productivity from hangovers today.