Hong Kong Sevens rugby tournament returns after three years

Hong Kong Sevens rugby tournament returns after three years

This year, the stadium is capped at 85 per cent capacity because of pandemic rules and organisers are aiming for 30,000-plus a day.

A major test for the tournament will be bringing back overseas spectators – who used to account for nearly half of ticket sales – weeks after Hong Kong scrapped hotel quarantine for international arrivals.

More than 26,000 out of 34,000 tickets were sold as of Tuesday but the “vast majority” went to the local market, according to Hong Kong Rugby Union CEO Robbie McRobbie.

RAUCOUS CROWDS 

Organisers spent months negotiating with the government to find a middle ground between its strict public health rules and allowing the rowdy festivities that have become synonymous with the Sevens.

Spectators were initially to be banned from eating in the stands but officials relented last month.

“It has certainly helped enhance the event experience for those attending and has contributed to a noticeable spike in ticket sales,” McRobbie told AFP.

Hong Kong maintains layers of pandemic restrictions long since abandoned by almost everywhere else in the world.

Overseas arrivals are still banned from going to bars and restaurants for the first three days, and must test regularly.

Face masks remain compulsory and spectators must present negative virus test results and use Hong Kong’s contact-tracing app to enter the stadium.

The South Stand has long been famous for fans in fancy dress and a raucous party atmosphere fuelled by all-day drinking, singing and dancing.

A “typical” Sevens experience may not return until next April, when tourist numbers ramp up and virus curbs are further relaxed, McRobbie said.

Economists estimate that this year’s tournament will bring in less than HK$300 million (US$38.2 million), down from HK$400 million in past years, the South China Morning Post reported.

Last month, Hong Kong held a snooker tournament which broke records for a live audience size, though it featured fewer overseas players than usual.

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