Matt Lee and Simon Little
It wasn’t quite the best outcome possible, but Canada still enjoyed a successful run at the inaugural HSBC Canada Sevens rugby tournament at BC Place this weekend.
The Canadian men entered ranked 12th in the overall season standings and won two of their three games during tournament play.
They dropped an opening day loss to 13th-ranked Wales but rebounded with a 14-12 upset over fourth-ranked Australia and a 29-12 win over Russia before loud hometown crowds.
And to top it off, Canada won the consolation Bowl with a thrilling last-minute win over France, taking a 19-7 decision.
The tournament was a chance for Vancouver to showcase itself as a rugby market, and with over 55,000 tickets sold for the two-day event the city didn’t disappoint.
Vancouver won hosting rights in a competitive international bidding process that sees it join cities like Dubai and Hong Kong on a global circuit, just as the game prepares to make it’s Olympic debut in Rio.
Michelle Collins with the City of Vancouver’s Sports Hosting program says the tournament’s popularity is a sign of how Vancouver is growing as a sporting city.
“We’re building every year as we host. We came right off Women’s World Cup that saw the stadium not once but four times sell out, a record for women’s sports. You know, right into Rugby 7s now – where people were saying, don’t expect more than 1,200 people in the morning when it opens up. We had 12,000 people in the stadium by 9 am. They say it surpassed anything they ever imagined.”
She says for next year’s tournament they’re hoping to sell out B.C. Place’s upper bowl too.
And she says the city’s sporting momentum is only building: a men’s soccer World Cup qualifier game against Mexico in two weeks has already sold more than 42,000 tickets.
Collins says the impact has been huge for the city – not just in terms of tourism, though the games draw plenty of that.
But she says tournaments like the 7s also have a community impact; Team France was out meeting people at community centres while the legendary New Zealand All Blacks taught a rugby clinic at Sir Charles Tupper secondary.
“It means so much to the city even beyond the economic impact.”
Collins says while the tournament, which was being live streamed internationally, will once again showcase the city as a destination – it’s also showing us something about ourselves as a sporting city post-2010.
“I think the Olympics taught us something, I think it taught us to come out and celebrate.”