Canada Sevens shreds Vancouver’s ‘no fun city’ reputation
World Rugby Sevens Series is as good an excuse as Vancouver has for dressing up and letting the good times roll. (Robert Collins). March 12, 2017.
Published Sunday, March 12, 2017 2:10PM PDT
Last Updated Sunday, March 12, 2017 2:34PM PDT
BC Place makes a fine venue for a party. On Saturday, the stadium’s broad concourse played host to the birth of countless new friendships as over 38,000 fans, seemingly half of whom came in costume, gathered for day one of this year’s HSBC Canada Sevens tournament.
In only its second year on the World Rugby Sevens Series, this two-day celebration of the sport is as good an excuse as Vancouver has for dressing up and letting the good times roll.
“The words that come to mind are rewarding, gratifying and exciting,” explained Canada Sevens CEO Bill Cooper, speaking during a rare lull in the action.
“We expected some of this success, but some of the harder-to-define things are exceeding expectations; the atmosphere and warmth of welcome, the proportion of people in costume, and fans cheering for every team. That’s the spirit that rugby represents. It’s such a unifying sport. We’re seeing non-rugby players understanding very quickly that they can take a photo with someone they’ve never met before, share a laugh or buy a beer for them.”
Photos are an essential part of the Canada Sevens experience. The variety and calibre of costumes makes resistance futile: Ghostbusters, x-wing pilots, oompa-loompas, cavemen, sheep, superheroes and even a hirsute Queen Elizabeth all rubbing shoulders and posing for strangers’ snapshots.
Australian broadcast icon Sean Maloney has commentated on Sevens tournaments around the world, but was still blown away by what he’s seen on his second visit to Vancouver.
“Mate, you’ve got it nailed down!” he enthused, taking a break from his role broadcasting the tournament to 100 countries. “You’ve taken costumes to the next level. It’s just fun, and that’s what sports should be. With Sevens you tear up the rulebook and throw it out the back door. It provides memories that people will carry with them to next year. You don’t forget a weekend at the Sevens.”
The very set up of the Canada Sevens is designed for socializing. Games are short and action packed at only seven minutes a half. Seats aren’t reserved, encouraging spectators to watch a few games, go grab a beer or a snack, and return to a seat in a different section, delivering a fresh angle and the opportunity to make new friends. In a cosmopolitan city like Vancouver, those friends can come from around the globe.
“There’s no more glaring example of 16 nations in one building, fighting on the sports field but celebrating each others’ differences and similarities off it,” said TV commentator and B.C. native Gareth Rees, the first North American inducted into the World Rugby Hall of Fame.
“This could become the Calgary Stampede for Vancouver. There are people who go to the Stampede who aren’t that into the animals. They go for a great time. People who aren’t huge rugby fans can come to this for the party.”
An opportunity for Vancouver’s many expat communities to indulge their love of the game, Canada and their countries of origin, the Canada Sevens offers more than simply two days of high-octane sport. It’s an amalgamation of cultures coming together to create a weekend-long party. That atmosphere wasn’t lost on one of rugby’s true immortals, Irish legend Brian O’Driscoll.
“This has massive potential to be a highlight of the circuit,” he smiled, unshaken by the 18 fresh stitches in his knee after his first time skiing on Grouse Mountain the previous day.
“Sevens is a party. It’s about getting behind your team if they’re out there and if they’re not, getting behind another team. That lends itself to a good atmosphere. I was touring around the stadium with Ben Ryan [coach of the gold medal-winning Fiji team at the Rio Olympics] and asked him if there’s anyone in Fiji who doesn’t know who he is. Before he could answer he was collared by some Fijians and hoisted up on their shoulders!”
The Canada Sevens continues with a full day of rugby at BC Place today. The Cup Quarterfinal line-up is:
South Africa v Canada
USA v Argentina
New Zealand v England
Fiji v Australia
For more information, visit www.canadasevens.com.