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Hong Kong - 40 Things You Need to Know If You're Off to the Sevens

For 3 days in late March, Hong Kong becomes the place to be if you want to watch world-class rugby. That's because it's playing host to the Hong Kong Sevens. Having been there a few times myself, I can also confirm that it's the place to be if you want to watch world-class international rugby whilst having a world-class party. This year the former British colony is celebrating 40 years of it's famous Sevens rugby tournament, and it remains firmly on the to-do list of those sports lovers who are also inclined towards a spot of hedonism. In honour of that fact, here's 40 things you need to know if you are making your way there for the tournament, or indeed at any time.

New Zealand celebrate their triumph at the 2014 Hong Kong Sevens.

Photo Credit: HKRFU & PSI

1 - The first Hong Kong Sevens was held in 1976. Each team has 7 players, unlike full-scale rugby union where 15 players is the norm.

2 - The inaugural tournament was won by a team from New Zealand - the Cantabrians.

3 - For years, those making their way to Hong Kong would fly into Kai Tak airport in the middle of the city. It was famously demanding for pilots - and scary for passengers.

4 - Nowadays, you use the international airport on Chep Lap Kok Island. It took 6 years to build, cost $20 Billion US and involved reclaiming 3 square miles of sea bed.

5 - Games are played in the 40,000 capacity Hong Kong Stadium, Hong Kong Island.

6 - The British & Irish Lions played in the stadium in 2013, notching up a win against the Barbarians ahead of the Lions' successful tour of Australia.

7 - The England football team warmed up for Euro 1996 with a game at Hong Kong Stadium, against a select team, made up of 'has beens'. England ground out a 1 -0 win.

8 - Back in 1976, the tournament was played in the Hong Kong Football Club Stadium in Happy Valley.

9 - Happy Valley is also home to a famous (and world class) racecourse.

Happy Valley Racecourse, Hong Kong Island

10 - Race nights are usually on Wednesdays, so if you are visiting for the Sevens, get into Hong Kong a bit earlier or stay a bit longer to enjoy a memorable evening.

11- Sports lovers may also be interested in seeing the Hong Kong International Dragon boat racing championships in July. Like the rugby, this also started in 1976.

Action at the Hong Kong International Dragon Boat Races

12- The races are held in Victoria Harbour, the body of water between Hong Kong Island (where the rugby takes place) and Kowloon (the mainland). The harbour is also home to Hong Kong's famous Star Ferries.

13 - A trip on a Star Ferry is often considered one of the world's top ferry rides and if you are lucky you may see some of the players using it to make their way to the stadium from Kowloon.

A Star Ferry in Victoria Harbour

14 - If your team wins, there will be a huge light and sound show in Victoria Harbour. The Festival of Light will take place at 8pm and last 13 minutes.

15 - If your team loses, there will be a huge light and sound show in Victoria Harbour. The Festival of Light will take place at 8pm and last 13 minutes.

16 - Victoria Harbour is home to the world's largest permanent light and sound show. The Festival of Light takes place every evening at 8pm and lasts for 13 minutes.

Hong Kong's Festival of Light

17 - 2015 will be the 4th time the tournament has taken place during the Chinese Year of the Goat.

18 - The last 'Goat' year was 2003. England was the overall winner.

19 - England also won the tournament the previous year, retained the title again in 2004 and won again in 2006.

20 - England last won the Hong Kong Sevens in....2006.

21- Fiji won the Hong Kong Sevens in 'Goat' year 1991. They have won the tournament a record 12 times.

22- Fiji also won the Sevens World Cup when it was held in Hong Kong in 2005. Fiji like Hong Kong.

23- Australia came top of the bunch in 'Goat' year 1979.

24 - Australia have 5 tournament wins in Hong Kong, the last coming in 1988.

25 - It has become a tradition for the crowd to boo the Australian team, presumably tongue in cheek.

26 - It is quite hard to boo with your tongue in your cheek. Give it a go.

Year of The Goat celebrations in Hong Kong

27 - New Zealand has never won the Hong Kong Sevens during a 'Goat' year, but don't bet against them doing it this time. They are the reigning champions.

28 - The Kiwis have won the tournament 11 times, and are also reigning HSBC Sevens World Series Champions.

29 - Back in 1994, a young Jonah Lomu burst onto the world rugby scene at the Hong Kong Sevens. New Zealand beat Australia in the final.

30 - Hong Kong Sevens has also witnessed the skills of many 15 a-side stars, such as Lawrence Dallaglio, David Campese and Jamie Roberts.

31 - Saturdays at the Hong Kong Sevens is when the party really kicks off, particularly in the infamous South Stand.

32- If you have a much sought after South Stand ticket, you best wear fancy dress and have a tolerance for noisy behaviour.

The South Stand at The Hong Kong Sevens

33- Al Murray (The Pub Landlord) is making his way to this year's event. As are The Village People.

34 - That's the GENUINE Village People. Not just a few blokes who once met the cousin of the chap who dresses as a policeman.

35 - They will probably perform 'YMCA'. Coincidentally, The YMCA in Kowloon, overlooking Victoria Harbour, must be one of the best in the world. I can safely say this, as I stayed there on my honeymoon. The views of the (aforementioned) sound and light show are terrific.

36 - FYI, in case you are questioning my romantic credentials, we also stayed at the world famous Peninsula Hotel, just along the road. If you see any green Rolls Royce's making their way around the city, they probably belong to The Peninsula. Make sure you try their high tea.

The Peninsula Hotel, Hong Kong

37 - If you fancy an evening out after a day at the Sevens, you are spoilt for choice regarding bars, clubs, restaurants etc. For more info, the website is your best bet.

Hong Kong nightlife

38 - If you want to order anything in the local language, better brush up on your Cantonese. Mandarin is mainly spoken in mainland China.

39- If this has inspired you to make the journey from the UK, then many airlines fly to Hong Kong from London.

40 - Manchester has also recently become an option, with Cathay Pacific making the journey 4 times a week. This is perhaps an easier route for Scottish fans.

Just looking back at this list, I realised I haven't even mentioned Hong Kong's famous Victoria Peak, or the best way to get about (in my opinion, it's the MTR) or the many new developments that the locals are keen to shout about (such as a former police officers married quarters that's become a crucible of creativity) I'll just to have make sure they get included when the Hong Kong Sevens reaches 50 years of age.