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7 reasons to love the Hong Kong Rugby Sevens
It's the most anticipated sporting event of the year, with good reason. Seven good reasons, in fact
The Hong Kong Rugby Sevens 2013 takes place this weekend, March 22-24. It's one of the few world-class international events to make it to this sports-starved part of the world. And fans make sure it counts.
And we take the opportunity to roll out again this tried and tested handy primer.
Tickets to Hong Kong Rugby Sevens always sell out within hours because the rugby action on the pitch is excellent and the partying off-pitch is crazy, especially in the notorious South Stand.
Here are some of the things Sevens fans look forward to each year.
Why do you love the Hong Kong Rugby Sevens like it's your own birthday? Let us know in the comments box below.
1. Watching England lose
The action on the pitch is first-class. Best things about it: watching Australia lose, watching England lose, watching the Pacific Island nations like Fiji and Samoa turn it on.
In recent years the rules have changed somewhat. For the first time in the event's 38-year history there will be 28 teams, which are split into two separate competitions. The first is a 16 team main compeition, the other a 12-team pre-qualification tournament. This ensures the strongest teams will not be playing the 12 weaker teams, so you won't see the All Blacks crushing Guyana 140-0.
2. Strapping units
Some of the most eye-catching athletes in the world will be here for the Hong Kong Sevens, hurtling up and down the field like a pack of excited adolescent tigers.
Check them out at "Hot rugby players: The real winners of the Hong Kong Sevens" from a few years ago to see what we're talking about.
3. Street walker fashion OK
Where else can you wear that full body lycra suit that highlights your perfect physique without causing a sex riot? The costume displays in the Hong Kong Stadium's South Stand are so bizarre, you would fit in.
The usual suspects for costume choice are Spartans, Greek gods in togas, Mario Brothers. The best costume of the weekend headlines the local South China Morning Post. We are expecting some North Korean leaders and Lance Armstrongs this year.
4. An excuse not to be cheap
Hong Kong Rugby Sevens doesn't just attract beer swillers. In 2011, the event brought in US$36 million from the 20,000-odd overseas spectators alone. That doesn't even count the locals' spending. All this makes Hong Kong business owners true fans of the event too.
The event is also a huge awareness campaign for sports and tourism, as the Hong Kong Rugby Football Union gets to drum up support for local grassroots rugby development.
And if you think about it, the combination of hot dogs, fancy dress and outdoor sports makes the Hong Kong Sevens quite a family-friendly affair. Despite the South Stand.
5. Polite drunks
There are few other sporting events in the world where the combination of vast quantities of alcohol, males and sport does not end in senseless violence and stupidity. The Hong Kong Rugby Sevens only has its fair share of fun stupidity.
The players are also on their best behavior on and off the field.
6. Pioneer sport
The Hong Kong Rugby Sevens were one of the first rugby union tournaments to attract major commercial sponsorship when Cathay Pacific sponsored the very first Sevens in 1976.
The event, which is older than the Rugby World Cup, has sped up the modernization of rugby unions. It also gives an exotic touch to rugby, with non-traditional rugby playing countries showcasing their best.
Today, the Sevens is also known as a place to launch the careers of promising rugby stars. International Rugby Hall of Fame inductee Jonah Lomu debuted at the 1994 Hong Kong Rugby Sevens.
7. More drinking than usual
The South Stand party continues outside of the stadium:
Soho: A mix of locals and expats will hang out here trying to get away from the tourists. The vibe will be only slightly more chilled out than the other party zones.
Lan Kwai Fong/Wyndham St: Full on. Combination of tourists, Billboard Top 100 cover bands, lychee martinis and rows of shots.
Wanchai: Anything goes in Wanchai. By far the most popular after-party district. Tourists, under-18s looking for cheap drinks, 50-somethings looking for cheap dates, as well as everyone looking to really let their hair down.
Also on CNN: The dirty-fun guide to Wanchai bars
The players celebrate with a dinner after the tournament, and anyone not competing the following week will be out with their supporters.
(Story updated March 2013, originally published March 2011)