HONG KONG (AFP) – Hong Kong’s rugby sevens tournament will return after a three-year coronavirus pandemic hiatus, organisers confirmed Saturday (July 30), with the event likely adopting a Beijing Olympics-style “closed-loop” system.

The Asian finance hub has been cut off from the world for more than two years, as it hews to its own version of China’s strict zero-Covid rules.

International flights remain well below pre-pandemic levels and all arrivals must currently undergo a week of mandatory hotel quarantine.

The restrictions have hammered Hong Kong’s economy and its ability to host major events.

But the Hong Kong Sevens is now set to be the city’s first major international sports competition to receive an official green light since the pandemic began.

The tournament – which was the highlight of the global sevens circuit and once drew thousands of tourists pre-pandemic – will be held from November 4th to 6th.

It will follow “prevailing Covid measures in place at the time”, the Hong Kong Rugby Union said in a statement.

“After three and a half years without a Sevens I am confident this will be a very special event,” rugby union chair Patrick Donovan said.

The rugby union earlier proposed to the government that the tournament be held using a “closed-loop” system that would isolate athletes, support staff and venue personnel for seven days leading up to the event.

Organisers said on Saturday they received government approval and will continue to consult with officials, with event details to be announced later.

Covid-19 mitigation measures for the tournament are estimated to cost around HK$50 million (S$8.8 million), organisers told AFP last month.

The competition – which used to be one of Hong Kong’s top social events and attracted a stadium crowd of 40,000 – will cap its ground capacity at 85 percent and limit spectator numbers, the South China Morning Post newspaper reported.

A resumption of the sevens will be a much-needed boost for sports-starved locals but it is unclear whether many international fans will travel to Hong Kong while mandatory quarantine rules remain.

Last modified: July 30, 2022