Heavens open over Sevens last hurrah at Hong Kong Stadium, but rain fails to dampen spirits

But the Post saw fans dressed in colourful costumes across the stadium, including everything from flamingos, Ikea bags, fairies, cartoon characters and Dubai princes.

“I like it, there seems to be more people dressed up this year,” 55-year-old British woman Alison Lyons, draped in a Hong Kong flag with a set of crimson red wings, said.

(From left) Alison Lyons, 55, and friend Gioia Sloane, 56, celebrate the city at the Hong Kong Sevens. Photo: Connor Mycroft
She was accompanied to the Cathay Pacific and HSBC sponsored event by friend Gioia Sloane, 56, an American who works in education and who has lived in Hong Kong since 2006.

“It’s just a beautiful vibe,” Sloane said. “My favourite part is cheering for the hometown teams.”

The loudest cheers on Saturday came when the Hong Kong men’s team scored the opening try against Japan and thunderous applause enveloped the stadium, although the home side would go on to lose 33-14.

Many fancy dress fans flocked to the south stand and the section hit capacity at about 2pm.

The queue stretched the length of the west stand, with estimated waiting times of more than three hours.

Among those in the queue on Saturday afternoon was 20-year old American Santo Benenati, who visited the city with two friends for the tournament.

Hong Kong Sevens fans prepare to bid farewell to stadium that holds so many memories

The three, dressed in Mexican cowboy outfits, said they had waited for well over an hour to return to the section after they left it to get lunch.

“I heard there was no other reason to come,” Benenati said of the south stand. “Other than the queue, the vibe is great.”

Matt Lovell, a 54-year-old computer programmer from the US, was also in the queue with his daughter, son and a family friend dressed as characters from the TV series Money Heist.

“I’ve been coming here since the late 1990s,” Lovell said. “If you’re going to come to the Sevens, it’s got to be the south stand.

He said his children, both in their twenties, had insisted on coming to the tournament this year as it was the last tournament in Hong Kong Stadium before it moved to a new home at the Kai Tak Sports Park from next year.

“If they did not come here they’d never see the south stand,” he said. “So all the stars aligned.”

Rain fails to stop play on the second day of the rugby sevens as fans pack out the Hong Kong Stadium. Photo: Sam Tsang

Hongkongers Tony Chen, 28, and Chloe Hon, 30, who were both dressed as Woody from the hit film Toy Story, said they were also sad it would be the event’s last year in Causeway Bay.

“It’s so iconic,” Chen added. “People know the Hong Kong Sevens for this stadium in particular.”

Merchandise stalls also saw floods of people over the day, with at least one selling out of almost half its stock by 5.30pm.

But bad weather risked derailing of Saturday’s fun as the Observatory earlier in the day warned the public to take shelter from heavy rain and intense gusts of wind.

Intermittent downpours did cause ponchos and umbrellas to be deployed throughout Saturday’s matches – but fans said the rain did not dampen their enthusiasm or the excitement.

“It’s not an issue because we flew out for this,” 50-year old Australian Sally Connell, who spent 11 years in Hong Kong before she and her husband moved to Singapore in 2017.

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Connell was celebrating her 25th wedding anniversary with her husband, along with a group of about 30 friends and family, who all dressed up as brides and grooms for the event.

“We’ve been here many times but it’s our first time since Covid,” Connell said and added that Saturday’s atmosphere was “awesome.”

Spirits were kept high despite the poor morning weather thanks to Jamaican reggae group The Wailers, who sang classic Bob Marley hits such as “Three Little Birds” over the afternoon break in the games.

Hundreds of children from Hong Kong’s mini-rugby league also took to the field during the intermission for the annual march past.

(From front, left) Julian Meng, with brother Tristan Meng, 6, along with mum and dad Sanny and Stanley, make the sevens a family affair. Photo: Connor Mycroft

Among them was Hongkonger Tristan Meng, a Primary One pupil who plays for the USRC Tigers club.

“I feel great, because it is so fun walking around the field,” Tristan, 6, said. “I can see so many people.”

Father Stanley Meng, 44, was with him as they marched around the field and he said the atmosphere and audience reaction was “amazing”.

“This is the greatest event to end the season with,” Meng, one of the team’s parent coaches, said.

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