• Nearly 30,000 tickets sold with a week to go, bettering the 27,000 that went out the door before last November's event
  • Hong Kong Rugby Union also making several thousand tickets available as part of community outreach programmes

Rugby officials are expecting a crowd exceeding 35,000 on the first day of next week's Cathay / HSBC Hong Kong Sevens, as they close in on hitting their ticket sales target.

The aim was to surpass 30,000 sales and those had climbed above 29,000 with a week to go until the tournament, taking place from March 31 to April 2. That compares with the 27,000 sold before last November's event - the first Sevens in three-and-a-half years.

With a further 6,000 spectators set to be hosted on the Friday as part of the Sevens' community outreach programmes, attendance is set to top 35,000 on the opening night. Organisers anticipate a 30,000-plus crowd for the Saturday and Sunday, without those being hosted on the first day.

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More tickets than ever before are being snapped up by the Hong Kong public while international demand recovers, with most of the sales going to fans in the city.

"We sold more tickets locally in 2022 than ever before, and we are on track to top those figures in 2023," said Robbie McRobbie, CEO of the Hong Kong Rugby Union (HKRU). "We are also seeing a welcome return in international interest for the 2023 and 2024 tournaments.

"We can confidently expect attendance to be higher than November's pandemic-limited tournament and remain on track to reach our target of more than 30,000 spectators daily by the end of the month."

Encouragingly for the tournament, which consistently attracted more than 20,000 overseas spectators from the early 2000s until 2019, international demand is growing, even if the union has acknowledged previously that it will take a further year or two to return to pre-pandemic levels.

To date, more than 20 per cent of tickets bought in the public sale have come from overseas, helped by the easing of local Covid-19 restrictions.

Organisers also said the city's corporate community had shown strong support, maintaining the tournament's annual take-up of stadium hospitality at over 90 per cent.

The prices of Sevens tickets, which are available from the official HKRU ticketing platform, have been frozen at 2019 levels, with a three-day pass costing HK$1,950 for adults and HK$950 for children 12 and under.

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This article originally appeared on the South China Morning Post (www.scmp.com), the leading news media reporting on China and Asia.

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