I was listening to Sail StadeFrance’s Morne Du Plessis on 567 Cape Talk earlier today. Sail StadeFrance was appointed as operators of Cape Town’s iconic World Cup stadium soon after construction was completed.
Cape Town’s brand-new stadium (Pic:City of Cape Town)
Morne was commenting on listeners’ usual concerns that the stadium may become a white elephant and a burden on local taxpayers now that the FIFA show-piece event has departed.
One of the events that the former Springbok Rugby captain mentioned naturally caught my ear. He mentioned that Sail StadeFrance will be trying to win the rights to host the 2011/2012 South African-leg of the IRB Sevens World Series. The very same event that has been successfully hosted by the Southern Cape town of George.
George’s Outeniqua Park hosts the SA-leg of the IRB Sevens World Series.
While I have never attended the George Sevens, my observations are that the town has been very successful in hosting the local leg of the 8-country IRB Series. In fact, some of the players have said what a pleasant contrast George is to the big-city atmosphere that they play in just a week before in Dubai. Also, being a small stadium, it’s easier to fill thereby adding to the jovial party atmosphere that is always evident at Outeniqua Park.
This brings me to the question: If the South African Sevens did move to Cape Town, does the game have the crowd support to fill (or even half-fill) a 55,000 seater stadium?
Probably not yet.
With the inclusion of Sevens onto the Olympic program, the shorter form of the game has been getting more and more exposure ever since the announcement by the International Olympic Committee (IOC). Locally, Supersport has been dedicating more air-time to Sevens, using former Springbok captain and Sevens player Bob Skinstad as a commentator and analyst. The print media has also dedicated more column-space and dedicated columnists to the game. This increased coverage is bound to intensify as we move closer to the Rio De Janeiro Summer Olympics in 2016.
Do we really want to take the Sevens away from George?
My understanding is that the South African Rugby Union (SARU) deliberately awarded the SA-leg to George in order to spread major events to the less-traditional centers instead of stadia like Newslands (Cape Town), Loftus (Pretoria), the ABSA Stadium (Durban) or FreeState Stadium in Bloemfontein. The George Sevens also contributes a lot to the local economy which in turn helps with economic issues such as job creation, tourism, etc.
What does the Cape Town Stadium have to offer the game?
As I mentioned earlier, the Outeniqua Stadium has limited seating capacity while the Cape Town Stadium can easily allow up to 55,000 bums-on-seats. Ultimately, in the modern game, this is one of the determining factors that impacts on the growth of sport.
Bums-on-seats = tv/media coverage = revenue = investment in the sport = growth.
An international Sevens event will also allow the organisers to re-activate the very successful “Cape Town Fan Walk” that proved so successful in adding to the hype and atmosphere during the World Cup.
Should the City fathers decide to bid for the 2020 Summer Olympic Games, successful hosting of a major international Sevens/Olympic event will stand them in good stead.
Cape Town also has many satellite venues that can host fringe rugby-related events like Hong Kong’s successful Rugby Evenings and Dinners, Bar Chats with former rugby greats, Tens Rugby Tournaments, Women’s rugby, etc.
Staying on the issue of Hong Kong; the Asian city has developed an entire “rugby week” that culminates in the 3-day Hong Kong Sevens. The Rugby Week includes all of the fringe events mentioned before, and more. In fact, Morne Du Plessis’ plan is to develop a Cape Town Sevens much in the mold of the internationally famous Cathay Pacific/Credit Suisse Hong Kong Sevens.
Should Sail StadeFrance put in a formal bid for the South African Sevens, the South African Rugby Union will have an important decision to make after the 2010/2011-leg of the George Sevens that takes place on December 10-11 2010.
(Image of CT Stadium by Warrenski on Flickr)