For some in the raucous South Stand of the Hong Kong Sevens rugby tournament this weekend, it seemed as though Hong Kong’s past three years of COVID-19 restrictions and political crackdown had never happened.
As in previous years at the Asian financial hub’s flagship sports and business networking event, the South Stand was packed with expatriates under the age of 40.
“It’s been 1,300 days since my last Sevens. [and] Being here makes me feel like I’m back,” said a banker and Hong Kong resident. Around him, Super Mario-dressed derivative-his traders and Hawaiian-his-shirted insurance brokers fought to stay vertical in a sea of human flamingos.
“Hong Kong is back. Put it in your report,” said another spectator, Australian foreign film producer Charles Edwards.
The return of the tournament was touted as a mark by the government, along with a series of financial meetings last week. Hong Kong’s return to the world stage After nearly three years of isolating international visitors in hotels and mandatory confinement over domestic Covid cases. In mainland China, Beijing continues to implement a strict zero-Covid policy that makes it nearly impossible for outsiders to enter the country.
“Hong Kong is always recovering better than ever,” city leader John Lee said at one of the conferences, the Global Financial Leaders Investment Summit. The forum brought together the heads of several international investment banks, including Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley, in the city for the first time since the pandemic began.
Under the city’s latest ‘0+3’ Covid restrictions, travelers are no longer required to undergo hotel quarantines, but are barred from entering restaurants and bars for the first three days of travel. Tourists face a week-long test, with mobo required to wear masks outdoors. If they test positive, they should be quarantined.
But as COVID-19 continues to be a widespread topic in the city, other popular Sevens outfits include t-shirts that have tested positive for the RAT and red COVID-positive shirts on the city’s health app. An iPhone showing the code was included.
Reignier du Plessis, a 38-year-old businessman from Johannesburg, was among the strewn crowd of tourists trying to attend the tournament.
“I’ll take the elevator to the tallest building… watch the rugby sevens,” he joked as he exited the stadium, one of at least nine tourists in the same position.
As of Friday, 27,000 of the 34,000 tickets had been sold. Hong Kong Rugby Union CEO Robbie McBee said rules restricted international participation.
“Honestly, not being able to go to bars or restaurants for three days is a huge deterrent,” he said.
The city also offered exemptions to certain overseas attendees to last week’s event, such as bank CEOs, but only to highlight how the rules are hampering business.
The city’s finance secretary, Paul Chan, who contracted the novel coronavirus in Saudi Arabia just days before the summit and tested positive upon arrival in Hong Kong, said after speaking in person at a major financial forum last Wednesday, local residents Officials waved signs at the stadium calling on people to wear masks, but they were barely seen in the crowd.
Concerns over Covid restrictions in the forum and Hong Kong after Xi Jinping consolidated power at last month’s Communist Party Congress were heightened fears about China’s direction. re-emphasizing gender.
“It’s very hard to read if China wants foreign investors anymore,” said the veteran fund manager, sipping house lager and cheering on the game going on below. “This is the first time I have seen investors so negative about China.”
A senior Chinese businessman nearby joked that he was lucky not to be in prison.
The corporate box had a more subdued vibe than previous years, known for vodka ice bars and the model’s sideline as a waitress.
Hong Kong heavyweights such as HSBC, Standard Chartered, Swire and Jardines had ‘executive-level’ suites, but this year ANZ, Citigroup, Societe Generale, Goldman Sachs, Only BNP Paribas had a similar corporate box.
Among those in attendance, many Hong Kong and Chinese bulls were telling the story, offering broadsides to the West and post-Brexit Britain. “Some Western companies are having their best years in China…I can’t believe the disconnect between these companies and Western media and politicians,” said a senior investment banker.
After Saturday night’s festivities ended, fans began heading to the city’s bars. A procession of inflatable pandas and weary Dalmatians roamed late into the night to the sound of police begging, “Please wear your mask properly.”
An executive wearing a cheat suit said this while getting on the bus on the way home.
https://www.ft.com/content/686037d9-b0f9-4f60-865d-6d9f057bf139 Rough rugby sevens offer normal flavor to Covid-stricken Hong Kong