The first thing you notice is the security. My goodness, what security. Efficient, but massive. We got there 10 minutes early, and looked for a while like getting in at least half an hour late. Luckily the no-bags line was empty, so even though I had a bag, I was waved through there. At that point, I had to remove every object from my pockets, and lay it out on the table. Everything. Then they searched my bag, and I’m not talking a cursory glance – I mean they pulled everything out of it and shook it. Then they went over me with one of those metal detector wand things. And they did this for pretty much every person who went through (though I undoubtedly got it because I look shifty).
So we got in there only about 5 minutes late, meaning we missed the first half of the first game. No matter: there were still 11 and a half games still to play, and by the end of the night, I was well and truly done.
Rugby 7s is pretty intense at the best of times, but when you watch it for four and a half hours, it does get a bit much. Having said that – wow. For just fifteen bucks we got four and a half hours of rugby. And not just rugby – 7s rugby, which is faster and more intense than regular rugby, with the same amount of scoring in roughly 1/6 of the time. Seven a side, for seven minute halves. So good.
We saw the pool matches, so we saw every side in the comp play at least once, and several of them twice, including the Aussies. Poor Sri Lanka were just awful, although it was lovely to hear the crowd back countries like them and Uganda and others who really were comprehensively outclassed. It was slightly amusing to watch them backtrack down the field when they had the ball though.
Fiji are the world champions, and looked it, even though they ended up with bronze (beating Australia for it). England and New Zealand ended up playing off for gold and silver, NZ triumphing impressively.
I did discover though that I have waning, if any, patriotism. I remember after I did my honours year in philosophy, I was invited to a discussion with a bunch of Masters/Doctorate students, who were supposed to encourage us to go on to their heights. I found it interesting at the time, and obviously still do, but one of them was doing their thesis on the concept of nationalism – allegiance to others based on what are essentially fairly abstract ideas like the fact that I live more proximately to you than others. This is less obviously strange in Australia which is relatively isolated, but it’s positively bizarre in places like Europe, where even my ethnic group could well extend across the border of a particular country – yet I’m still supposed to have some allegiance to my country over those people. It’s an interesting idea, and that was the first time I’d heard it questioned. Now I tend to agree in a lot of ways – I’d far prefer Fiji or Samoa or someone to win than Australia. Does that make me unpatriotic? Maybe. But somehow it doesn’t bother me.