26 March 2013

Someone Else’s Party 別人的派對

Late March in Hong Kong brings clammy air, frequent drizzles and the gradual return of the subtropical heat. It is also marked by a spike in beer consumption and hotel room rates, caused not by the arrival of spring but a spectacle known as the Hong Kong Sevens. The three day rugby tournament is much more than just an international sporting event. To expatriates living in Hong Kong, it is a celebration bigger than Christmas and New Year. It is a cross between the Super Bowl, Halloween and Oktoberfest. It is Mardi Gras without the parade and Spring Break with bam bam sticks. The annual carnival fills the Hong Kong Stadium with cheers, beer breath and spontaneous eruptions of song and dance.

That's why they call it a contact sport

Rugby sevens, as the name would suggest, involves fewer players than regular rugby. Each game consists merely of two seven-minute halves. Think of it as beach volleyball or five-a-side soccer. To prove that size doesn’t matter, rugby sevens is set to make its Olympic debut at the 2016 Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro...


Read the rest of this article in No City for Slow Men, published by Blacksmith Books, available at major bookstores in in Hong Kong and at Blacksmith Books.


  1. A very accurate portrayal, Jason. One caveat: some expats (my wife and I for two) look on this with as much bemusement as the locals.


  2. Good write up... I havent been since the 80s!


  3. I took a Hong Kong friend of mine to the 7s on Friday evening for the first time....she loved the excitement and was very interested in the game. Also if you looked at the mini-rugby teams on display on the Saturday, to say that locals don not know about the game is not the whole truth...more and more parents and children are now a fundamental part of the game. Unfortunately it's true that most of the financial community are not interested in the sport or the event, I saw that all too often again this weekend.


  4. As the vain side of me scavenged the Internet for pictures of my drunken friends and I from the weekend, to no avail, I randomly stumbled upon your blog.

    I can't agree more with you and simultaneously can't help but be reminded of the sometimes seemingly huge gap between the "locals" and "international kids"/any BC's. Having said I was pleasantly surprised when some fellow Asians belting "Hey Baby" next to me were locals!

    Btw your writing is great. Light, fun, and perceptive. Although law school has put me off reading outside of textbooks, I think I'll pick up a copy of your book soon :)


  5. Thanks for your comment, tnewman. I agree that some locals do enjoy and indeed play rugby, but the fact remains that local participation at the Sevens is minuscule compared to the expats. I wish that for a major sporting event in Hong Kong there would be more Hong Kong Chinese playing in it and watching it.


  6. Glad you stumbled upon my blog, Nic. Do check back often and tell your friends!! :-)


  7. The Sevens is the only international event of any note that happens in HK. Indeed, this HK-invented sport is now a world series and has even won a place at the Olympics. This is an amazing success story that any other country would be shouting from the rooftops about.
    Not in HK, apparently. Instead we get articles like this, moaning about the lack of public tickets at the same time as saying the public doesn't care about it.

    Ironic that the SCMP is accusing others of local irrelevance...


  8. I don't think Rugby Sevens was invented in Hong Kong. And I do stand by my position that the public doesn't care about it.


  9. Hey Jason, you got an ethnic chip? I note the reference to ballpark, a peculiarly american term, that's a hint. And then the inaccuracies, entire east and west stands are invitation only? You are either lying or being economical with the truth to further your own agenda. Lastly, in your definition of local, do mixed race kids count, do all those little chinese kids on the paddock count, do all my chinese mates there count? I was in the commentary box for every single minute of every single game and your way off the mark on whatever you were trying to say.


  10. Jason, since you don't care for the game, nor for the beer, nor for the party and are only going to "check the box", say hello, exchange business cards and pick up the latest gossip in the banking circle (I had to interrupt my pleasure reading for a quick puke when I reached that bit)... I have a suggestion to make.

    Don't go anymore. Donate your ticket (which you seem to imply you normally get through cronyism in the fine-arse industry and the legal minions that serve them) to someone who does care about the game, or even just to someone who cares about the Sevens. Every ticket counts.

    And then I have another suggestion to make.

    Don't write about it anymore either. Seldom did I read such a badly structured, bloated piece of writing, filled with inaccuracies, pointless facts, and worst of all: an incapacity to make up its mind about its main point actually is.


  11. Thanks, lowtze and Jve, for your impassioned remark! It looks like the Sevens is so beloved and revered among the expat community in Hong Kong that any criticism of it, however muted, is met with genuine emotion. In a way it proves my point even more.


    1. lowtze had a point on "the entire east and west stands are converted into “by invitation only” corporate boxes" : you forget the upper level where there are quite a bunch of people as well.

      However, I fully agree with your position. I am not a sports fan (practising is not very healthy, I do not understand the point of watching it) but I have enjoyed the Sevens each time I went there. This is a socializing event indeed and yes, the game is fun, sometimes beautifully played but the whole thing is definitely not all about the game.


  12. Hi Jason.

    First of all, I am a local local (meaning I’m Chinese face with yellow skin who speaks fluent Cantonese). I do agree with your point about the locals don’t care about the event. There’s hardly anyone in my circle who talks about the teams, the players nor the games. In most of their minds, it’s something that sounds really cool to participate but don’t really care about the sport. They enjoy the atmosphere rather than the play of the game which is quite a political incorrect behavior.

    However, I also see where some of the critics on this passage are coming from. In the whole article, it gives a impression of you not giving a shit about the event to a level that you simply regard the event for money-side interest rather than being a genuine sport fans. You didn’t give a chance for the event at all, making it sounds like a foreign invasion and if not for the networking purpose that serves you, it should get the hell of here. But hey, there are people in Hong Kong (expat and local) who are trying really hard to promote this sport (that you didn’t learn to appreciate), why don’t you give them a chance? By that I mean don’t bash the sport and say how little value it brings to the local community but show them at least a little respect. I don’t know what sports you like but every sport has its own beauty. As much as it’s overrated in the expat community as you think, rugby is still a great game played with tough athletes and tough athletes are rare in Hong Kong.


  13. Thanks, Leb, for your balanced view.

    I don't think I was knocking the sport at all. Rugby, like cricket and lawn bowls, is played by a small minority in Hong Kong and that's a fact. In my essay, I was merely commenting on the Sevens as an event, and not the merits of the sport.

    The sport I really dislike is golf. Though if I were to write an article about how little I care for golf and how I'm sometimes forced to play golf to further my business network, I bet I wouldn't have gotten the same scathing feedback from golfers. They would just assume that golf is not for everyone. Ergo, there's something about the Sevens that makes it a bit of an untouchable -- you can only say good things about it or else get out of the Hong Kong Stadium.

  14. Not sure about previous years, but this year, HK Rugby 7 could be watched online via TVB's mytv website. (The hyberlink is no longer there but I think I saw it last week and it may be J2 channel). So I guess it is getting more attention by the local media.

    And Jason, Rugby 7 has always been one of major international sport events in HK. It was well known in the 1980s. Back then, the expats (both male and female) would run on the field naked and made it to the headline of SCMP. I remember seeing the frontpage photos when I picked up the classroom copy of SCMP. Where had you been during that time???

    Well, I guess there are only 2 famous sport events that interest the expatriates. The other one being the HK Showdown or Tennis Tournament. I recall in the 80s (when Aggassi was full of hair) seeing the advertising in MTR stations. Back then, it was sposonred by Salem, Mild Seven or even Kent cigarette brands. Also the Cricket Sixes is happening in Oct. That should attract a few ex-British colony expats!!!

    Rugby 7 is held once a year but there are a few international scale events. Probably you are not exposed to them via your business associates only.

    But I am with you on golf!!!

  15. Whoa whoa! No need for personalised attacks!

  16. You're one fine writer, Jason.

    Be careful what you write or you may lose your SCMP job.

    Their target audience is not exactly your kind.


  17. They just don't accept the truth...



    1. HKBC said:

      As they see it, to them, Jason is a "foreigner" or simply a HK Chinese.

      They don't see that SCMP is nothing more than an expat community newspaper.

      They see a different "truth".

  18. Great article Jason. Although I think that there are more Chinese attending the event now than ever before. Tickets were a nightmare this year and yes the corporate bandwagon is increasing year on year.