At the onset of the 2006 Hong Kong Rugby Sevens, there were many important questions to ponder û and as ever, a crucial one was which bank would have the best corporate box. With each year the stakes increase and banks attempt to top previous efforts and each other. This yearÆs offering was no exception.
Not breaking with tradition, we jumped from box to box over the course of the three-day tournament. In the six years since inception, we always find this a difficult choice to make, and going by the corporate smorgasbord in 2006, this was our hardest call ever.
As at previous Sevens, the meticulous review process began on Friday night at the Credit Suisse box. Although the major sponsor again avoided the party box moniker, it does take the title of best luminariesÆ box, complete with John Major, Donald Tsang and England rugby legend, Martin Johnson. Perhaps more than the other boxes, Credit SuisseÆs touchline position provided the best panorama of Hong Kong Stadium and easily compensated for lack of a theme.
Elsewhere on the stadiumÆs West side, ABN AMRO celebrated 100 years in Hong Kong by providing punters with the tournamentÆs most laidback corporate box. It was hard to find a better box to watch the rugby and drink red wine. Indeed in a radical innovation, there were even four armchairs. And for anyone looking for a blow-by-blow analysis of EnglandÆs route to the trophy there was also insights from Richard Orders and Matthew Kirkby û with Kirkby being possibly the only man in the entire stadium vigilant enough to spot the linesmanÆs flag at the controversial climax of the England-Samoa game.
Further down the road, Goldman Sachs reached for the stars with itÆs ôMoonö party, which was both an extremely hot ticket and full of staff that would make George Lucas proud. As per previous years, there was a singer who climbed onto the bar at regular intervals and did a decent impression of Shakira.
Perennial party box CLSA also produced the goods in 2006 and predicted the weather perfectly with their ôSurfinÆ Safariö getup, pom pom girls and leis for everyone.
Also on the west side, Deutsche Bank produced an extremely ornate and sculpted box, running with the theme of æChampagne and Pearls.ö The box was so elaborately decorated that it was easy to forget that you were at an international sporting event and not inside some prize-winning diorama.
As the Moet flowed freely, the bubbles cascaded down the stand, and virtually all guests were enamoured by the dedicated mermaid sitting on the window box. Its proximity to the laconic South stand also gave revellers a chance to see how the other half lives.
CitigroupÆs ôZorroö was also very impressive. Mariachi tunes and what sounded like Julio Iglesias piped through the stereo. Walking through the veiled box, the spirit of pre-annexed California came to life with capes and eye-masks.
Last yearÆs winner UBS, which again proved to be the eventÆs most jammed-packed box, was difficult to ignore. Decked out as the ôUBS Stadium,ö this box came complete with one of the best selections of beer in the stadium and a reinforced bar. The crowds continued to peter in well after the final try was scored, making this easily the best after-hours venue in the entire stadium. Another triumph for Lee the Landlord.
Morgan Stanley had a ôsuperheroesö theme and in a first for this competition managed to win the æCoolest boxÆ category - for having what appeared to be the only functioning air-conditioning of any box we visited on æSteamy SaturdayÆ.
Nearby, Merrill Lynch cushioned the floors to resemble the cobblestones of Pamplona and dished out the ever-popular sangria, which many guests agreed was an extremely welcome change from beer and PimmÆs. The ærunning with the bullsÆ theme featured matador capes. The boxÆs popularity was clearly underscored by a rival bankÆs corporate communicationÆs head who spent the majority of the weekend attending this incredible bovine box.
And the winner wasà JPMorgan. The first-time winner offered an æEmergency RoomÆ theme. The JPMorgan doctorÆs jackets were one of the most visible costumes of the Sevens and it was difficult not to see someone moonlighting as a surgeon in the other corporate boxes or in the crowd below. The nurses were a picture of health. Their offers of medication were less healthy, offering test tubes of the alcoholic variety. From the ædispensaryÆ bar to the cups fashioned as beakers, it was extremely difficult to find anything not to like about this box.
The sheer originality and attention to detail was what got JPMorgan over the line and although jammed to the rafters by the final matches û there was a queue to get in û it was a fitting place to watch the conclusion and (as was inevitably required) seek some much needed medical advice.
PHOTO CREDITS: Peter Calello
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