The famous Hong Kong Sevens could return in November for the first time in more than three years under a Beijing Olympics-style “closed-loop” system, organizers said yesterday.
The highlight of the World Rugby Sevens Series calendar is renowned for its raucous party atmosphere, but has not been staged since April 2019 as Hong Kong stuck to a “zero COVID” policy with strict rules on travel, quarantine and public gatherings.
Hong Kong Rugby Union (HKRU) chief executive Robbie McRobbie said the Olympic-style plans had proved acceptable to World Rugby, but still had to be given the “green light” by the Hong Kong government, after which a final decision would be made about whether to go ahead.
“Significant challenges remain, not least the cost of implementing the COVID mitigation measures, but we will do all we can to get this on — we know how important it is for our city to get going again,” McRobbie said in a statement.
The arrangements would see 16 men’s teams and their support staff, as well as personnel running the stadium, hospitality and hotels, confined to a closed-loop system for seven days leading up to the Nov. 4 to 6 tournament.
The women’s tournament, usually played alongside the men’s, would not take place.
McRobbie said affordability would be crucial in deciding whether the Hong Kong Sevens could go ahead, with the COVID-19 measures adding HK$50 million (US$6.4 million) to the bill for staging the event.
The tournament is one of Hong Kong’s biggest social events, normally seeing sell-out crowds of 40,000 for all three days with fan zones, bars and restaurants across the territory catering to thousands more.
Spectators would be outside of the closed loop under the HKRU plans, but the Hong Kong government at present still limits most gatherings in public to a maximum of four people.
McRobbie said the event’s return would bring huge benefits to sectors that had “suffered greatly over the past three years.”
“My feeling is if we can afford it we should do it,” he said.
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