Hong Kong Sevens returns after three years of COVID restrictions
With the recent global banking summit, it's clear that Hong Kong is looking toward reopening and trying to restore the damage brought by isolation under COVID restrictions.
COVID restrictions have been firmly in place over the past three years in Hong Kong. But with the situation increasingly stable, the city has been pushing for a reopening and a stronger presence on the global stage, reversing the setback brought on by COVID rules. For example, Hong Kong recently hosted a global banking summit coupled with FinTech Week. And this weekend, Hong Kong Sevens was officially back.
But there were still some COVID regulations to deal with. For example, Hong Kong stadium was capped at about 34,000 – 85% of its capacity; players had to stay in quarantine bubbles; attendants were required to wear face masks when not eating or drinking and show negative rapid test results before entering the sports event. Also, this year, there were only 16 teams competing rather than the usual 24 teams, and the women's tournament was canceled.
It was also a bit tricky for foreigners to attend because of the three days of COVID restrictions that keep overseas visitors away from restaurants, bars and other crowded places. Hong Kong's leader John Lee said that the city would hold more big events as the COVID restrictions ease. And if there isn’t a huge spike in cases after this weekend, that’s likely to happen sooner than later.
“The Sevens are such an important fixture in Hong Kong’s calendar, so the return of the tournament is an important milestone after a difficult few years,” said Noel Quinn, CEO of HSBC, which is one of the event’s sponsors.
“If we want to open up our border with the Mainland China, our restriction is too lenient … so it’s not allowed. But then if we want to open ourselves up to the world, we are still too stringent. We are now stuck in between, hoping to see better policies in the future,” said Vera Yuen, an economics lecturer at the University of Hong Kong.
“The South Stand is absolutely infamous around rugby circles and the fact that it hasn’t happened for three years could take this one to another level,” said Luke Treharne, former captain of the Wales Sevens team. “It’s just as unique a fan experience as it is for players. That’s why it’s been such a famous tournament over the years.”
“The vibe this week has been very positive, people are coming,” said Hong Kong Rugby Union Chairman Chris Brooke. “Hong Kong’s been missing big events. This is a good sign that Hong Kong is back.”