A festival of rugby or a drunken party of madness?
Every year thousands upon thousands of New Zealanders flock to the nation's capital to get their annual dosage of the abbreviated form of their national game. After their two-month break from rugby over the summer, the Wellington Sevens is an ideal way to get back into rugby mood and kick off the start of another enormous season.
But what started as just another Sevens tournament has turned into what has been dubbed the biggest party in New Zealand. The tradition of wearing a costume to the event has developed, the more elaborate the better seemingly.
This was all fun and good, only adding to the experience and creating an atmosphere that perhaps only Hong Kong could match.
But where there is rugby in New Zealand, generally there is also alcohol—namely beer. If there were to be one black mark on New Zealand society, it is the binge drinking culture that exists, particularly around rugby.
Drinking in moderation is fine, but what has developed at the Wellington Sevens is a drunken mess that has gone too far. Not just in the stadium, but out on the streets outside too. It's gone past the point of having a good time, and there has come to be something of a dark atmosphere lingering.
The emphasis has been removed from the rugby and has shifted to what's happening in the crowd, the music playing and how much everyone has had to drink. There are many people that can be seen not even watching the action, waiting for the breaks in the schedule to get up and dance to the music, some of whom appear so drunk they have little idea what is happening in the rugby anyway.
And this perhaps is where to draw the line. At the country's only international sevens tournament, the main focus should be on the sevens. If you want to have a party, get drunk and dance to music, that's fine, but if this is going to interfere with the rugby, the party should really be taken elsewhere.
There are those that will argue that it would kill the event if the focus was taken back to the sevens. That argument is a weak one though. Rugby is a like a religion in New Zealand, and while sevens doesn't get quite the same exposure, the country does indeed gear up for its international festival.
If anything the prospect of a gold medal at the 2016 Olympics will only add to this, with sevens having been added to the event for the first time.
In short, it would be hard to imagine New Zealand, of all places, not being able to sell out a stadium for a two-day rugby tournament.
That isn't to say banning alcohol is the answer. But some form of restriction needs to be put in place, if not for the well-being of the people consuming it, at least for those who are there to watch the action in the sevens.
Of course, if New Zealand make the final, the crowd will get behind them. But for the most part this isn't the trend is growing further and further from this being the focus.
Combining a party with a rugby festival is a great idea. There just needs to be a better balance of the two, and it's this that will be the challenge for the organisers for the upcoming event.
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