It's the one costume no sevens reveller wants to see - the paramedic in the back of the ambulance.
Wellington's emergency services are bracing for the onslaught of drunk sevens revellers, with extra paramedics, police and doctors working over the next two days.
Tighter controls are being introduced this year in an attempt to curb antisocial behaviour, including R18 wristbands to make it easier to identify underage drinkers.
A hard line will be taken against those flouting the rules, with Wellington Sevens organisers warning they will eject offenders from Westpac Stadium and cancel tickets.
More than 70,000 spectators are expected to flood into the stadium for the event, which injects about $15 million into the Wellington economy.
Alcohol-related injuries from the event clogged up Wellington Hospital's emergency department every year, but this year sunburn and heat exhaustion were of extra concern.
"Nobody goes out expecting to end up in the back of an ambulance, but it's the little things, like not eating enough or drinking enough water, that tend to ruin people's weekends," emergency medicine specialist Paul Quigley said.
"Severe sunburn is going to be a big issue this year, and wearing hot costumes can cause heat stroke and exhaustion, which is made worse by alcohol."
An extra doctor was rostered on for the afternoon shifts and an extra nurse for the night shifts, Dr Quigley said.
"Last year during sevens weekend we saw almost double the number of alcohol-related presentations in ED.
"Look after yourself and your friends at all times, and don't get dangerously drunk."
Within two hours of last year's tournament kicking off, the first drunken patient was already struggling to keep himself upright at Wellington Hospital. More than 160 patients sought medical treatment at the hospital and ambulance triage tents for intoxication and injuries.
Wellington Free Ambulance will again set up a triage tent on the stadium concourse and another in Tory St, operations team manager Mark Shakespeare said.
Twenty extra paramedics were rostered on, and four additional vehicles would be operating to cope with the spike in drunk and injured patients.
"We're dealing with anything and everything that comes up . . . historically we've had lots of trips, falls, sprains, strains and minor lacerations," Mr Shakespeare said.
Wellington Hospital emergency medicine consultant Andy Swain will be based at the triage tents to deal with more complicated medical issues.
Police said there would also be a much stronger presence at Westpac Stadium, along the waterfront and in the central city.
Between midday today and 9am on Sunday, 140 police will be hitting the beat - including road policing and general duties - significantly more than on a typical weekend. Last year, 14 people were arrested at the stadium and 68 were evicted during the tournament, with 30 people denied entry because of intoxication and trying to smuggle in alcohol.
"When you consider that there's 33,000 people going through those gates every day [the numbers] are not huge," operation commander Inspector Simon Perry said.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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