Sevens revellers praised as booze curbs pay off

SOPHIE SPEER
Last updated 05:00 04/02/2013
Sevens parade 2013
CRAIG SIMCOX/FAIRFAX NZ Zoom
Tim Mikkelson (left) and Belgium Tuatagaloa acknowledge the crowd.
DJ Forbes
Photosport Zoom
A dejected New Zealand sevens team, led by captain DJ Forbes, trudge off Westpac Stadium after losing to Kenya in the semifinal.

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After being put on notice by the IRB for getting too boozy, this year's Hertz Wellington Sevens seems to have ticked all the right boxes with tournament organisers.

The International Rugby Board, which runs the international sevens series, expressed concern last year at the level of alcohol being consumed at the event. As a result organisers increased measures to curb excessive drinking, including introducing wristbands for punters aged over 18.

Anyone found to be excessively intoxicated had their wristband removed, meaning they could no longer drink in the stadium.

But while alcohol-related incidents were down inside Westpac Stadium, booze-fuelled violence and liquor ban breaches still resulted in 95 arrests around the city during the two-day event - on par with last year.

Sevens general manager Steve Walters was pleased with the behaviour of the crowd, and believed the message of taking it easy was finally being heard.

"The spirit and behaviour of the crowd improved from last year . . . people were behaving themselves and having that physical reminder on your arm helped stop excessive drinking."

The IRB was yet to complete its written report on the event, but Mr Walters had heard "anecdotally" that audience behaviour and attitudes had improved, he said. "It's positive and we will keep going down this road."

Veteran commentator Keith Quinn, who has lamented the behaviour of sevens goers in previous years, said there had been a marked improvement.

"I was very proud of Wellington as a city that hosted the event. The audience had great humour and the television footage which was viewed around the world showed happy people having a good time."

A dozen people were arrested and 47 evicted from Westpac Stadium during the two-day event, down from 14 arrests and 68 evictions last year.

Inspector Simon Perry said "the stadium was significantly different this year. We are really pleased about that, but we don't have that sort of control in the city".

However, most of those arrested were out-of-towners who regularly caused trouble in Courtenay Place on Saturday nights - rather than those who had been at the sevens.

Last year, police arrested 100 people throughout the weekend.

Wellington Free Ambulance triage staff treated more than 90 patients for minor injuries, burns and heat exhaustion, ambulance central communications team manager David Ross said.

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- The Dominion Post

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