Who had the best box?

Our annual review of the best boxes at the Hong Kong Sevens.

One suspects that God must love rugby. The meteorological proof was this year's Hong Kong Sevens. In the week preceding the event, the weather was bleak, cold and miserable. But as the Sevens kicked off, Hong Kong's weekend weather was transformed to sun-drenched blue skies, promising a carnival atmosphere once more.

This was a Rugby World Cup year, and tickets for the Sevens were like gold dust. With so much at stake, and so many clients flying in, we knew that every bank would go the extra mile to make their box as impressive as possible this year.

And in keeping with previous years, we spent much of the weekend hopping from box to box. Our 'Best Box at the Sevens' competition is now in its fifth year and this was one of the toughest years to make a decision.

We normally start our Sevens campaign in CSFB's box. As a main sponsor of the event, CSFB's box makes no pretence to be a 'party' or 'themed' box. If there were a theme it would probably be "John Major", the ex-British prime minister who is always there.

Another bank that has normally been out of contention for the best box award is Morgan Stanley. Over the years its box has severely disappointed. But not this year. The US firm made a genuine effort with a Shanghai Nights theme, and several of its bankers were at pains to point out the efforts that had been made this year. The theme included Mao caps for guests and a China-themed rugby shirt and was definitely a step in the right direction. Granted, this box still lacked the sort of party atmosphere generated by music and low lighting, but coming from a (very) low base, this was probably 'the most improved box' of this year's Sevens.

In terms of the best costumes, the laurels go to ABN AMRO and JPMorgan. The Dutch bank similarly had a China theme, and was giving out green and yellow karate outfits, and yellow coolie hats. The hats were particularly useful given how powerful the sun was on Saturday afternoon.

JPMorgan, meanwhile, went for an Elvis theme and must have employed the entire Shenzhen textile industry considering how many white Elvis capes it gave out. The wigs, capes and gold sunglasses could be seen all over the stadium.

In terms of originality, Merrill Lynch was our favoured choice, and definitely did the best job with its box's décor. It adopted a medieval theme and transformed its box into a castle, complete with Richard III-esque portraits, a fireplace and even had a bevvy of wenches - serving drinks with names like Guinevere's Delight.

Over on the other side of the stadium, two boxes went head-to-head with a near-identical African theme. The ever-effervescent CLSA went for a "Safari" theme and thus gave its official endorsement to the Kenyan team - and gave out Kenyan rugby shirts to boot.

Goldman Sachs meanwhile opted for a "Jungle Fever" theme, and definitely produced one of the year's best party boxes (just ask the Argentinian rugby team). A jungle canopy and a hip DJ gave the box a nightclub feel, and there were moments on Saturday afternoon when Goldman's box was almost too busy. A possible lure were Goldman's 'Jungle Janes' who danced on the bar in leopard-skin outfits and sang.

Further down the corridor, Citigroup adopted a 'Sevens Elements' futuristic, sci-fi theme. The box was clad out in silver and as in the past, the focus was very much on creating a dance atmosphere. Also on this side of the stadium, Deutsche went for a Moulin Rouge theme.

So who won?

UBS recaptured our Best Box title this year. Under the ever-competent stewardship of 'Lee the Landlord', this is always a box that enters the fray as a strong favourite. And as the region's biggest broker, this box is rarely anything but full.

The theme of the box this year was 'Seven's Heaven' and the décor was a pastiche of the Sistine Chapel. However, the conversions remained on the pitch. In this particular chapel you could expect Old Speckled Hen beer, kebabs, a trumpeter, as well as a couple of angels ready to paint your face as desired.

This was also the box where the partying went on the longest and hardest. A specially reinforced bar has long been used by UBS guests as a platform to dance on. This year things went one step further. One person took ALL his clothes off. And in scenes reminiscent of a rock concert, there were people diving off the bar, only to be caught by the throng below. Indeed, the word 'inferno' springs to mind as the best description.

No other box really matched UBS for sheer atmosphere. And if God indeed loves rugby - as the weather pattern suggests - here was his church. For this reason, UBS reclaims the award from last year's winner, ABN AMRO, and wins the best box for the second time.

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