Matthew Backhouse is a NZME. News Service journalist based in Auckland.

Sevens fever hits capital

Fans line Wellington streets to welcome teams for popular two-day tournament.

Performers preceded teams with international entertainment. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Performers preceded teams with international entertainment. Photo / Mark Mitchell

International sevens teams were greeted by the screech of hundreds of plastic whistles as they paraded through central Wellington yesterday.

Thousands of fans lined Lambton Quay in the hot afternoon sun for the annual Sevens Parade ahead of the popular tournament, which will see fans flocking to Westpac Stadium in weird and wonderful costumes over two days from today.

Each of the 17 teams was greeted by loud cheers from families and workers who lined the streets for the 12.45pm parade, with the biggest commotion saved for the New Zealand team, who rolled by on the last float.

For the first time this year, each of the teams was preceded by performers representing their nationality - including flamenco dancers ahead of the Spanish team, Scottish bagpipers and Welsh singers.

Yellow plastic whistles were given to the crowd by promotions people from Wellington Sevens sponsor Hertz.

Wellington mum Amanda Poole was excited to be at the parade with her three children, Campbell, 7, Lucy, 5, and George Roach, 3.

"They love seeing the teams - they're all rugby fans. They love to see the colour and the music and definitely love to see the players and give them a wave."

Campbell said he was supporting New Zealand, but he was also there for Spain, as he was dressed in a Spanish football shirt.

The kids won't be going to the tournament, which is marked by drunken antics, arrests and evictions.

"It's not a very child-friendly environment these days. They would love to go, but unfortunately not."

Ms Poole said she would bring the kids down to the waterfront in the morning today - before it gets too raucous - to see all the fans' costumes.

"We went down last year later in the day and it was a little bit risque, I must say."

Yesterday's parade kicked off on Wellington's main shopping strip of Lambton Quay before heading down Willis St.

The teams then received an official welcome at Civic Square from Wellington Mayor Celia Wade-Brown.

The first game kicks off at 1pm today, between France and Kenya.

New Zealand first takes to the field at 3.12pm against England.


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