Fancy dress, sports stars and rock music – The Dubai Sevens offered more than just rugby
Time Out Dubai staff
December 3-5. The Sevens Stadium, Dubai-Al Ain Road.
Ever colourful, action-packed and lively, the Emirates Airline Dubai Rugby Sevens gave sport and music fans a weekend to remember. The annual rugby tournament featuring 269 teams, has a reputation for fast-paced, top quality rugby on the pitch and fancy dress shenanigans up in the stands. This time around it was no different.
It’s a challenge every year for the Sevens to be better and different to the last, and after 46 years, the organisers are still giving the fans what they have come to expect from the event. The Rugby Sevens got underway on Thursday December 3 and many guests made the most of the long weekend and free admission to get into the swing of things early. The organisers added an invitational netball tournament into the mix, guest appearances from sporting stars such as the All Blacks’ Sonny Bill Williams and plenty of attractions for fans of all ages including the brand-new Teen Zone complete with computer games.
The tournament generally attracts a mixed crowd and among the throng of costumes, there are die-hard rugby fans who follow each match with devotion, never miss a try and cheer on every team. And then there are those for whom the Sevens is essentially an annual carnival, with dressing up and partying the order of the weekend. But the two mix in harmony – the combination adding to what makes the Sevens an increasingly popular event. Attendance over the three days this year clocked in at a record 100,000 fans from all over the world.
The main action kicked off on Friday, with guests arriving from 9am. Despite record numbers, the stadium never felt over-crowded. As to be expected with an event of this size, there were queues to get in, but bottles of water were handed out to visitors and an increased security presence on the door – including metal detectors and uniformed police officers – seemed to be welcomed by visitors. Once inside the Sevens Stadium, fans got to explore the Rugby Village and spread out around the vast complex, though the main action took place on and around pitch one in the DHL and Dnata stands, which top and tail the pitch and usually house the liveliest crowds.
Keeping the audience fed an watered is a big operation and there were plenty of international food and beverage options including a barbecue stand serving ribs and burgers, which had the longest queues of the day, satisfying plenty of punters.
During Friday afternoon’s schedule, a poignant minute’s silence was held at Pitch One at around 4.15pm in honour of the nation’s fallen soldiers and in tribute to World Rugby Sevens Operations Manager Beth Coalter and legendary rugby giant, Jonah Lomu. The tribute was finished with a musical performance of Mariah Carey’s Hero and the annual parade of nations. It was a solemn moment amid the merriment.
When the whistle blew marking the final match of the day at around 8pm, the party really got going. Families with small children headed for the car parks to avoid the inevitable traffic getting out of the venue, while adult revellers migrated towards the Hard Rock Café stage where Carl & The Reda Mafia entertained the crowds with energetic live pop-rock covers.
Two other sponsored stands kept the party vibes going well after the rugby had finished, pumping out electronic dance music, and funky urban vibes.
The bottom line A lively three-day celebration of sport.