Story highlightsHong Kong Sevens take place April 6-8It’s been much-loved by fans since the 70s
(CNN)In 2015, high over the North Stand of Hong Kong Stadium, above the commentators and scorers booths, comedian Al Murray sipped from a bottle of water. It had been a pleasantly grueling few days at the Hong Kong Sevens.
Asked about the key to enjoying the tournament, he said: “You just have to hand yourself over and not worry about what time of day or night it might be.”Follow @cnnsport Two days later, high-spirited commentator Sean Maloney tweeted of the Hong Kong sevens: “It’s like fighting Mike Tyson and Muhammad Ali on alternating nights for an entire week [sic].”You know he typed this out with a big grin on his face.Fans love Hong Kong, and players do, too. It’s expected that 120,000 people will once again pack-out the stadium for this year’s event. Read MoreBut how has this trading hub on the southern cusp of China become the go-to destination to watch — and revel in — sevens rugby?READ: Jamaica’s Crocs forging ‘Cool Runnings on grass’ taleREAD: Zambia relishes ‘once in a lifetime’ game against All BlacksHistoryThe idea of the Hong Kong sevens was hashed out over drinks in 1976.It was a simpler time back when Ian Gow, an executive from Rothmans Tobacco, and ‘Tokkie’ Smith of the Hong Kong union decided to push through the inaugural Hong Kong sevens. Kiwi outfit Cantabrians bested 11 other southern hemisphere sides to be crowned the first ever kings of Hong Kong.The very next day, an editorial from the South China Morning Post proclaimed that the spectacle showed the “glorious uncertainty that makes seven-a-side rugby arguably the fastest and best ball game in sport.” Photos: Rugby Sevens 2017-18Paris, France – Victory for South Africa and a fifth-place finish for Fiji saw the Blitzboks take the 2017-18 Sevens World Series title by just two points. Hide Caption 1 of 18 Photos: Rugby Sevens 2017-18Paris, France – A runner-up finish for Australia in Paris was enough to secure the overall women’s title ahead of rivals New Zealand. Hide Caption 2 of 18 Photos: Rugby Sevens 2017-18Paris, France – Portia Woodman bagged two tries in the Paris final, which ended 33-7 in favor of the Black Ferns. Despite three tournament wins, however, they couldn’t defend their championship title. Hide Caption 3 of 18 Photos: Rugby Sevens 2017-18London, England – Fiji’s Josua Tuisova looks for an offload in the final of the London Sevens against South Africa. His side ran out 21-17 victors to take control of the series. Hide Caption 4 of 18 Photos: Rugby Sevens 2017-18Langford, Canada – New Zealand’s Black Ferns inflicted the heaviest ever series defeat on Australia in the final of the Canada Sevens, scoring eight tries in a 46-0 demolition of their rivals.Hide Caption 5 of 18 Photos: Rugby Sevens 2017-18Singapore – Fiji moved to the top of the standings with a tense victory over Australia in Singapore.Hide Caption 6 of 18 Photos: Rugby Sevens 2017-18Kitakyushu, Japan – New Zealand’s Black Ferns backed up Commonwealth gold with silverware in Japan after a 24-12 victory over France in final.Hide Caption 7 of 18 Photos: Rugby Sevens 2017-18Hong Kong – Fiji made history in Hong Kong — the most famous and best-loved leg of the Sevens World Series — by winning a fourth consecutive title, defeating Kenya 24-12 in the final. Hide Caption 8 of 18 Photos: Rugby Sevens 2017-18Hong Kong – Japan gained a berth in next year’s Sevens World Series with a 19-14 victory over Germany in the qualifier event. Hide Caption 9 of 18 Photos: Rugby Sevens 2017-18Vancouver, Cananda – Fiji fans celebrate in Vancouver where their country secured its second win of the Sevens World Series. Hide Caption 10 of 18 Photos: Rugby Sevens 2017-18Vancouver, Cananda – Kenya was the tournament’s surprise package. Playing in its first final since Singapore in 2016, Shujaa eventually went down 31-12 to Fiji.Hide Caption 11 of 18 Photos: Rugby Sevens 2017-18Las Vegas, USA – There was an historic result in Vegas as the Eagles lifted the trophy for the first time on home soil with a 28-0 victory over Argentina in the final. It was just the second title USA have won, the first coming in London in 2015. Hide Caption 12 of 18 Photos: Rugby Sevens 2017-18Hamilton, New Zealand – Fiji overturned a first-half deficit against South Africa to claim a first title of the season in Hamilton — the first time the town has hosted a Sevens World Series tournament after the New Zealand leg was moved from Wellington.Hide Caption 13 of 18 Photos: Rugby Sevens 2017-18Sydney, Australia – Australia’s women continued their storming start to the season in Sydney. Tim Walsh’s side became the first team ever to go a whole tournament without conceding a point. Hide Caption 14 of 18 Photos: Rugby Sevens 2017-18Sydney, Australia – There was more good news to come for home fans that weekend in Sydney. The men eased past South Africa 29-0 in the final, with Ben O’Donnell (pictured) grabbing a brace. Hide Caption 15 of 18 Photos: Rugby Sevens 2017-18Cape Town, South Africa – The All Blacks claimed a first tournament victory since March 2016 in Cape Town, toppling Argentina in the final. Hide Caption 16 of 18 Photos: Rugby Sevens 2017-18Dubai, UAE – Having finished second to New Zealand in last season’s overall standings, Australia’s women got their campaign off to winning ways by overwhelming USA 34-0 in the opening tournament in Dubai.Hide Caption 17 of 18 Photos: Rugby Sevens 2017-18Dubai, UAE – Last year’s world champion South Africa started this season as they ended the last. The Blitzboks saw off New Zealand 24-12 in the UAE to win the first piece of silverware up for grabs in the men’s competition. Hide Caption 18 of 18From such humble beginnings this present-day monster of an event set forth. But only a year later, something magnificent happened. The Fijians joined the party.In 1977 Fiji won their first title and the people of Hong Kong fell head over heals in love — an affinity that endures to this day (as you will see from the enclave of never-budging Fiji fans in the North Stand). Only last year, former captain Osea Kolinisau said of the event: “It’s kind of a rite of passage for us Fijians, we grew up watching legends of the game playing here.”There have certainly been plenty of them. Fiji have triumphed in Hong Kong 17 times in total. New Zealand have won 11 titles, Australia have five, England four, Samoa three and the Barbarians and Cantabrians have one win each. Photos: Hong Kong Sevens 2018It’s perhaps the biggest party in the world of sport… Hide Caption 1 of 11 Photos: Hong Kong Sevens 2018The annual Hong Kong Sevens, which this year was held from April 5-7, is loved by rugby fans and players alike, regularly attracting as many as 120,000 spectators.Hide Caption 2 of 11 Photos: Hong Kong Sevens 2018Asked about the key to enjoying the event, comedian Al Murray once said: “You just have to hand yourself over and not worry about what time of day or night it might be.”Hide Caption 3 of 11 Photos: Hong Kong Sevens 2018No wonder there is a saying in Hong Kong: “If you ever get bored of the sevens, you can turn around and watch the rugby.”Hide Caption 4 of 11 Photos: Hong Kong Sevens 2018The Hong Kong Sevens dates back to 1976, with Fiji boasting more wins than any other country. The island nation picked up a record fourth-straight victory at the 2018 tournament.Hide Caption 5 of 11 Photos: Hong Kong Sevens 2018From small beginnings, it’s now a truly global affair, with 28 teams in total at the ground this year.Hide Caption 6 of 11 Photos: Hong Kong Sevens 2018″What is incredibly special is that the city shuts down for it,” says England sevens veteran James Rodwell, describing the sight of rugby-hungry fans in the stadium for three whole days as “humbling.”Hide Caption 7 of 11 Photos: Hong Kong Sevens 2018World famous for the atmosphere it generates, the Hong Kong South Stand does not stop jumping all weekend. Hide Caption 8 of 11 Photos: Hong Kong Sevens 2018Fancy dress is a must. Hide Caption 9 of 11 Photos: Hong Kong Sevens 2018With the 40,000 seater stadium a vibrant mix of color and noise, Hong Kong’s atmosphere has set a precedent for other World Series tournaments, most notably London and Las Vegas. Hide Caption 10 of 11 Photos: Hong Kong Sevens 2018″I start to get goosebumps when you talk about the atmosphere in Hong Kong,” says Fijian sevens legend Waisele Serevi, who competed at the event on a number of occasions. What are your favorite memories of the Hong Kong Sevens? Have your say on CNN Sport’s Facebook pageHide Caption 11 of 11As well as growing into the “one to win” for so many sevens sides, the tournament is also the base for new beginnings. With 28 teams in total at the ground this year, it is now where teams from outside of the men’s and women’s Sevens World Series fight it out in competitions running concurrently to the series event, hoping to qualify as a core team for next season’s circuits.READ: Fiji defeat Kenya to win Canada SevensREAD: Uganda rugby star Solomon Okia revels in World Cup dreamVivid play”What is incredibly special is that the city shuts down for it,” says England sevens veteran James Rodwell, who first played in the showstopper in 2009. Hong Kong is a three-day event, unlike many others on the series. Rodwell explains that Friday playing days elsewhere can be unheralded affairs. But not at the modern Hong Kong Sevens.JUST WATCHEDWatch: Hong Kong Rugby Sevens highlightsReplayMore Videos …MUST WATCH
Watch: Hong Kong Rugby Sevens highlights 01:45″With England we usually play the game quite late in the afternoon,” he says. “You wait all day for 14 minutes of rugby, which is quite strange. But you can run out for your game and there are supporters there.”He describes the sight of rugby-hungry fans, especially expat England fans, in the stadium for three whole days as “humbling.”But supporters have definitely been treated by the players over the years.The great Jonah Lomu dominated as New Zealand won in 1994, 1995 (before that famous World Cup) and 1996. That same year, Kiwi great Christian Cullen set a record for points scored in a single tournament (136). The most famous name in sevens, Waisale Serevi, won the Leslie Williams Trophy for outstanding player four times; he also won the tournament seven times. JUST WATCHEDHong Kong Rugby 7s: Superstars and 120,000 fansReplayMore Videos …MUST WATCH
Hong Kong Rugby 7s: Superstars and 120,000 fans 01:37Australia’s David Campese is still talked about by regulars as a true entertainer while the recent iterations of Fiji have played loose-limbed, swashbuckling stuff.Not that Hong Kong only caters for flat-track flyers. The conditions can be tough. Sure, there is constant humidity, but it can be blaringly sunny just before the heavens open up.One of the most iconic images of the tournament came in 2014, when New Zealand celebrated a punishing 26-7 win over England by doing a topless haka in the rain.Rodwell, who was on the losing side in that final, insists that as pretty as it all was, the match would have had to be abandoned had it gone on a few minutes longer. Rainwater was puddling deeply on the playing surface as the Kiwis did their dance.AtmosphereThere is a saying in Hong Kong: “If you ever get bored of the sevens, you can turn around and watch the rugby.” Chances are, that saying is aimed directly at the South Stand. World famous for the atmosphere it generates, the South Stand does not stop jumping all weekend. Queues for it start early in the morning and before play begins on the Saturday and Sunday; it will revert to a strict “one out, one in” policy. Photos: America's growing love for rugbyThe ever-increasing popularity of the Las Vegas Sevens is helping rugby to become one of the fastest-growing sports in the United States. Hide Caption 1 of 15 Photos: America's growing love for rugbyThe Las Vegas Sevens is always a fan favorite, but the two recent editions have been particularly special with USA winning back-to-back title. Hide Caption 2 of 15 Photos: America's growing love for rugbyThe 2017 event attracted record crowds to Sam Boyd Stadium for the seventh consecutive year with an attendance of 80,691 across the three days.Hide Caption 3 of 15 Photos: America's growing love for rugbyLike many sevens events around the world, Vegas inspires a party atmosphere with spectators coming in fancy dress.Hide Caption 4 of 15 Photos: America's growing love for rugbyThe 2017 attendance was a slim increase on the previous year, which brought in 80,138, including these fans dressed as Elvis Presley.Hide Caption 5 of 15 Photos: America's growing love for rugbyThe USA has enjoyed its best start to a sevens season this year, finishing runner-up at the first four tournaments. Hide Caption 6 of 15 Photos: America's growing love for rugbyOver 100,000 fans attended the Rugby World Cup Sevens in San Francisco, the best-attended rugby event ever in the USA. Hide Caption 7 of 15 Photos: America's growing love for rugbyIn common with rugby’s US sports rivals, cheerleaders play a big part in the entertainment schedule at Vegas — which over the years has included Cirque Du Soleil and fighter jets. Here members of the USA Sevens Sweethearts perform during the 2015 tournament.Hide Caption 8 of 15 Photos: America's growing love for rugbyThe 2016 tournament was broadcast on NBC and its Sports Network. It reportedly reached national and international audiences in over 400 million homes and 147 countries. Here a Samoan rugby fan supports his team in 2016. Hide Caption 9 of 15 Photos: America's growing love for rugbyA security guard chases a costumed fan after she ran on the pitch during the 2015 Cup Final match between Fiji and New Zealand.Hide Caption 10 of 15 Photos: America's growing love for rugbyIt required two guards to finally bring the woman to the ground. Hide Caption 11 of 15 Photos: America's growing love for rugbySecurity was busy that day, as this fan also invaded the pitch before Fiji beat New Zealand. It was the All Blacks’ fourth successive defeat in Vegas finals. Hide Caption 12 of 15 Photos: America's growing love for rugbyThis fan also took center stage during a 2014 match between the US and Spain. Hide Caption 13 of 15 Photos: America's growing love for rugbyPlayers get close to the crowds in Vegas. Here members of the Canadian team pose with fans following a 2014 match against Samoa.Hide Caption 14 of 15 Photos: America's growing love for rugbyUS speedster Carlin Isles, who bagged a try in the 2018 final, is popular with the home supporters. Here he wears a cheese hat at the request of a fan taking his photo after a 2014 game. Hide Caption 15 of 15Everyone in there is in fancy dress, too. Back in 2015, comedian Murray explained that the tournament is at its brightest when fans commit to fancy dress. He went further: “One of my highlights this year was the guy who got dressed as Kim Jung-un, with loads of bodyguards. He even had Dennis Rodman with him. That’s really funny. Apparently they were moving people out of the Dear Leader’s way — that’s just awesome!”Laughing about the party atmosphere, Rodwell says: “When I met her, my wife had never seen rugby before, but she had heard of the Hong Kong Sevens!”He goes on to say that, despite playing there many times, a trip to the South Stand is “on my bucket list.”Visit cnn.com/rugby for more news and videosThere are many other sights, sounds and snacking delights to be found in Hong Kong. It is an assault on the senses. When it is in full sway, though, little in Hong Kong can carry you off as much as the sevens can.