I wrote some time ago about going to the Scotland – South Africa match at Murrayfield where I was underwhelmed by the total (expensive) experience of the day´s entertainment.
Interesting to compare with attending the HSBC World Sevens in Cape Town for a weekend in early December. The venue, the Green Point stadium built for the soccer world cup a few years ago. An excellent modern stadium seating over 60,000 in a bowl with good viewing for everyone. Easy to get into and out of, with a large number of food and drink outlets and huge toilet areas for both men and women. Fancy dress everywhere of course and everyone out to enjoy themselves. Crowds ranging from 20,000 to 60,000 for the whole of the 20 hours of the tournament with the largest numbers assembling for the electric atmosphere when the Blixbocke play. (For all the hype, Hong Kong and Dubai are nothing like full until the last few hours of the final day, and their stadia are much smaller.)
Having taken the time and expense to get there, the Exiles team of myself and Allan Mabon with wives had decided to lash out and buy special tickets which gave us the best seats and unlimited food and drink for the two days. Every few hours when a couple of perhaps less interesting games were on all we had to do was go down to a huge area under the stands where excellent hot food was continuously served and enormous bars served a wide range of beverages. And you could still watch the games on large screens. All included in the ticket price which was 2,000:- SEK per day. The seats were spacious, right on the centre line.
Allan, who is teetotal, missed out a bit perhaps, while others in the group made determined efforts to get full value for their tickets. An extremely civilized way to attend a sevens tournament.
The tournament was, of course, superb. Rugby enthusiasts like myself are biased but I still maintain that these top class seven´s players are the finest athletes on the planet. The teams belonging to the top rank are improving and it is no longer Fiji, NZ and SA who always dominate, although they all got to the last four in Cape Town. For the second tournament in a row the US got to the final and teams like Scotland and Spain put up fine displays. There was plenty of music, but it was not too loud and adapted to the play and intervals. The crowd were great with large numbers in exotic outfits while almost all the rest had Springbok shirts. (Our Swedish outfits were remarked on by a few.) Huge amounts of drink were consumed but we didn´t see a single person the worse for wear. And best of all we are beginning to see more and more intermingling of the various races in the rainbow nation. Whites were predominant in the crowd, but there were plenty of blacks and every shade in between and to see them all cheering like mad when the Boks were doing well was a moving experience. The team at present is of course half and half in colour terms.
Was it worth the trip? Well, not the cheapest night out, but I would say “Yes”.
Of seven´s tournaments I have attended I would rank it alongside 1997 in Hong Kong when Fiji and the great Serewi won a titanic battle against NZ and the Dubai tournament in 2009, both male and female, which convinced the Olympic Committee that rugby should make a comeback.