Wander through the stands of the Hong Kong Rugby Sevens—the city’s biggest sports event—and it’s as if the 1997 reunification with China had never happened. The English-speaking community, at other times a collection of dissipated stragglers in the population statistics, becomes a roaring, Mexican-waving, demographic powerhouse, or the semblance of it, during the last weekend in March—coralled as it is in the lager-slopped confines of the Hong Kong Stadium. Its numbers are swollen with thirsty ranks of out-of-towners—the British stag parties (for some reason always in drag), the corporate visitors in rainbow-colored Afro wigs, and the middle-aged “children of empire” returning from far and wide on their annual hometown pilgrimages. The Hong Kong Chinese in the audience often seem faintly surprised by the drunken crowd, which is fair enough. Very little in their own experience has prepared those that do attend for the sight of, say, a blonde trollop passed out in her bra, or the quivering pink man-boobs of the bawling, shirtless lout in the seat behind. But it’s all great fun. And as the lucky holder of a ticket (the fruit of two hours of speed dialing a hotline from three phones), I am eagerly anticipating the tournament’s opening late tomorrow afternoon.
This year, for the first time, the party has been deemed worthy of academic scrutiny. Joseph Bosco—a rugby-playing professor from the Chinese University of Hong Kong who, earlier this month, gave a public lecture entitled Globalization and Sport: An Anthropological Analysis of the History of the Hong Kong Rugby Sevens—is leading a Hong Kong Anthropological Society field trip to the event to examine its rituals and meanings. If you happen to be in town and are interested in attending, you can find the society’s contact information here. I believe Prof. Bosco will be making profound points, as he did in his lecture, about the ways in which “nationalism, gender play, and general carnival atmosphere of the tournament reflect the emerging values of the contemporary global order.” You’ll be in for an engrossing time, in other words. And permit me to apologize in advance if the inebriated, hollering goon in the crowd that is the subject of your scholarly gaze turns out to be me.