Hong Kong Rugby Sevens: A History of One of the World’s Greatest Sporting Events
In November 2022 the Hong Kong Sevens is back! Many Chatteris English Tutors are getting ready for the action packed weekend, and in this post Chatteris’ own Lewis Morgan takes us through the history of this iconic event.
The Hong Kong Sevens is a truly unforgettable three days, filled with fast and furious rugby action combined with a carnival atmosphere. It attracts some of the world’s greatest rugby players and thousands of fans from all around the globe to the spectacular Hong Kong Stadium every year, and has been established as one of the most popular annual sporting events not only in Asia but the whole planet.
From kicking off with 12 teams in front of 3,000 people at the Hong Kong Football Club in 1976 to the modern day three-day extravaganza of magnificent rugby with 40 teams from around the world playing in front of 120,000 spectators, the Hong Kong Sevens has truly become a sporting spectacle; but how has the event evolved throughout the years?
The first Hong Kong Sevens was held on 28th March 1976, with twelve teams hosted in a single-day tournament. Hong Kong Rugby Football Union (HKRFU) Chairman and Sevens co-creator A.D.C “Tokkie” Smith described the day as “the most colourful day of sport that I have ever seen. One that put Hong Kong on the international sporting map.”
In 1985, 10 years after the sporting event’s creation, a record crowd of 23,000 attended the tournament at the former Government Stadium in So Kon Po. With 24 teams now playing every year, the event continues to grow in popularity.
Fast-forward eight years to 1993, when HKRFU decided to expand the capacity to 40,000 for the Government stadium and named it the Hong Kong Stadium, a now world-famous name. However, by the time the tournament rolled around construction hadn’t completely finished, with the stadium being described as a “concrete shell”. Luckily for event-goers, HKRFU offered each spectator a cushion for them to perch on in order to prevent a concrete-sore back.
Just one year later, Sir Gordon Tietjens debuted as coach of the New Zealand Sevens team, who unveiled a new weapon in Jonah Lomu. An unknown 18-year old on arrival, Lomu caused quite a stir in the 40,000 strong crowd after steamrolling one of rugby’s greats, Waisale Serevi, in the semi-final and flatfooting Australian legend David Campese for a try in the final. Lomu won the Leslie Williams Best and Fairest award on his debut and went on to be named as the youngest ever New Zealand All Black in the same year.
Following the success of the 20th Anniversary of Hong Kong Sevens, Hong Kong hosted its first Rugby World Cup Sevens tournament. Local star Chan Fuk-Ping made history as the first Chinese player to represent Hong Kong at Rugby World Cup Sevens, and Hong Kong played for the last time as a British Colony. A year later, the handover from the People’s Republic of China is celebrated by the inclusion of a team in the tournament.
In 2002, England won the competition for the first time in their history, becoming the first northern-hemisphere country to accomplish the milestone after Australia, New Zealand, Fiji and Samoa. They went on to win three of the next four competitions, missing out on the most important one of all, the World Cup in 2005, as Hong Kong became the only rugby union to host two World Cups.
Five years later, International Olympic Commitee President Jacques Rogge attended the Hong Kong Sevens, six months after the game was granted Olympic status. Rugby Sevens made its Olympic debut in the 2016 games in Rio de Janeiro. In the same year, Hong Kong won The Shield competition.
Want a chance to exprience the HK Sevens like our tutors have? Join us in Hong Kong!