30 May 2009

Emirates Airline London Sevens

A friend bought a number of tickets for the recent Emirates Airline London Sevens at Twickenham so I went to the first day to see what the fuss was all about.

We were in row 24 on the lower level on the west side which gave us a good view of the games, as this photo taken without any zoom shows. Only the lower level was open so I guess that there were around 15,000 people there, most of whom seemed to be wearing either the country's club colours or bizarre fancy dress. For some reason Kenya seemed to have attracted the most supporters, it certainly had the most enthusiastic ones.

The tournament started with a group stage with some unusual countries (from a rugby perspective) making up the numbers, I never expected to see Germany play for instance. This, combined with the open play that makes sevens attractive, led to some of the games being rather pointless and scores of 40 - 0 or worse were not uncommon.

That said, the rugby proved to be entertaining enough and we were all duly occupied for some eight hours. We arrived later than some and left earlier than a few but we were there longer than most. It seems that the opening day was something that most people were happy to sample just a bit of, particularly if they had children with them.

While the day was billed as a rugby tournament a serious amount of effort was put into trying to entertain us between the games. This included cheer leaders (here getting ready to welcome the England team on to the pitch) and various competitions that involved the cameras picking somebody out in the crowd who was acting madly when instructed to do so. You will not be surprised to hear that I did not join in any of these, nor did I join in with any of the Mexican waves or singing Macarena. For me all the entertainment was a distraction from what I thought was the main event, the rugby.

The other attraction for us gents was the bar. The beer was OK but came in plastic and cost an unreasonable £3.70 thanks to the bar's monopoly. The food was little better and somehow even managed to make chips look unappetising. I was surprised, and very pleased, to find a decent veggie burger at one of the stalls that ringed the outer boundary of the stadium.

From the outside, Twickenham Stadium does nothing to hide its concrete and steel construction and it looked reassuringly strong with the afternoon sunlight full on the west stand. Unfortunately it looked almost as industrial inside too with the concrete terraces only slightly softened by rows of hard plastic seats. But the worst bit is the no-man's-land between the inside and the outside where absolutely nothing has been done to soften the concrete underpasses. Some paint would do.

All told it was an entertaining day out but not quite entertaining enough for me to rush to do it again.

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