Sunday, February 6, 2011

NZI Sevens: Rugby, Drinking, General Mayhem

Wow, the Sevens weekend in Wellington.  Where do I begin to describe the mayhem that I have now had the privilege of experiencing.  Not since college have I had such a full weekend of sports, camaraderie, drinking, shenanigans and randomness.

First I should explain a bit about the sports side of it:  The sevens is an abbreviated rugby game (20 min long) played in several cities across the world, including Las Vegas.  International teams compete in a two-day tournament to be the winner.  It's a great two days of games but most of them aren't watched by the ticket Wellington it's just one big party.

Second, I should note here the obsession that Kiwis have with dressing up.  They don’t celebrate Halloween to the same extent that we do in the States but they spend the rest of the year making up for it with non-stop fancy dress parties.  The Wellington Sevens is the biggest of them all.  31,000 people packed the stands and I think only four people weren’t dressed in costume (this isn’t an exaggeration – everyone dresses up).

Kiwis have an unbiased sense of humour
Costumes range from simple to really elaborate (box of crayons, police officers, sports players, cavemen, railroad crossing signals complete with lights and bells) and others were more trendy (LOTS of Katy Perry outfits and Black Swan ballerinas).  Some of the best were good purely because of their sheer numbers:  A group of about 30 guys dressed as trolls (the kind with the jewel in their bellies from the 90s).

The games started on Friday afternoon and so we made our way through the masses of costume clad people to the stadium (milling about when there were people jumping off of a pier into the water – costume and all) or when an entire bar waited in apprehension as girl after girl was asked to flash an on-looking crowd…and many did it.  It was sensory overload.  Costumes, drinking, partying, people, drinking…. Too many places to look!

The stadium was equally as intense.  Although we had tickets we never actually sat in our assigned seats…in fact, I’m not sure that anyone did, but the games take such a back seat to the partying that it didn’t matter.  Each section was supposed to support one of the countries at the tournament.  We started in the American section (by chance) and ended up spending 90% of our time in the Canadian one.  But I’m not sure that anyone in any of the sections really was from the country they were supporting.  The Kiwis took it all on board and cheered loudly anyway.

Giving high-fives to the US Team
Saturday had the better games as we reached the final rounds of the match.  But the costumes were a bit worse for the wear as they tried to make it through two days of partying.  By the end of the night the stands were fully packed for the last few games.  The US took third, which was awesome (I gave high-fives to all of the players as they walked by).  But the best part was when New Zealand won the entire tournament.  The stands went nuts.  The team went around the stadium and performed the Haka over and over again.  The energy was contagious!

As we all piled back out onto the streets we again followed the mobs into the city where they closed the roads down turning it into a street party.  Costume pieces were now laying abandoned across the city, people were wandering and swaggering around everywhere into the wee hours of the morning.

Sunday was a good day for different reasons.  The masses had dispersed and everyone walked around in a bit of a sleep-deprived, hungover coma state.  Every once in awhile someone in our group would perk up and say “remember when…” as the images and memories slowly made their way back into our minds.
  • Convincing a guy sitting next to us to streak across the field (he made it about half way before the security guards smashed him into the ground
  • G chucking an entire hotdog (bun, ketchup, mustard and all) at someone only after he smashed into her
  • Watching the racewalkers race right into the water without stopping…then watching them shiver for the next three hours as they tried to dry off again
  • Bumping into a fellow Chicagoan, who was sitting in the Canadian section waving an American flag.  He lives 1/2 mile from my old apartment in Lakeview
  • People making out with random strangers

And now I’m off, on my way to the South Island with the rest of the tourists carrying a Lonely Planet NZ book and a backpack.  Still feeling a bit sleep deprived, with a sore throat that makes it difficult to even talk let alone eat or drink.  I probably won’t have another weekend like the one I just had in a long time, maybe that’s not a bad thing, but right now the fun memories are still fresh.

Thanks to the girls and the racewalkers for such a memorable and great weekend – you know who you are.

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