My visit to the Wellington area was timed perfectly to overlap the Hertz Sevens (also known as the Wellington Sevens or the New Zealand International Sevens), an international rugby tournament held in Wellington every year in early February. The tournament derives its name from the seven players on each team (instead of the usual 15), and each game is played in two seven-minute halves (instead of the usual 80 minutes it takes to play a full game). The Wellington tournament is famous for the rowdy behavior of the crowds and the Halloween-meets-Mardi-Gras atmosphere it evokes throughout the city, as people dress up in elaborate costumes for the many parades and costume contests held over the long weekend. Over the years it has evolved to become one of New Zealand’s most famous sporting events, and the Wellington City Council shuts down several blocks of major streets to contain the celebratory crowds.
This year, I travelled into the city with Amandine to watch the game(s) and meet several of her friends, all of whom were French. I barely understood a word anyone said the whole night, but it was great fun to walk up and down Dixon St, drinking and laughing at the outrageous costumes that passed by! It really felt like the World Cup Finals all over again, and Amandine reported that the crowd felt even bigger than it did the first time around! Plus, the best part of the whole night? New Zealand won!