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Last night, I headed out to the Jean Bouin Stadium at 6:30 encountering no rush hour crowd. The stadium is in the south west section of the city near the famous Roland Garros tennis complex that is home of the French Open.
The streets were empty leading to the stadium, no throngs of fans or merry makers in costumes moving to the tournament. The area was ringed by French military. Inside, I was immediately patted down by security.
The stadium at 25,000 capacity, seemed the right size for a sevens event. But here were some substantial differences with our Las Vegas 7s (and other HSBC World Rugby venues):
- No one main scoreboard;
- No program with players listed;
- Two large – but not that large – video screens with television coverage. Team names in small print and difficult to read;
- No Fan Festival outside stadium;
- No merchandise sold of any kind;
- Small sized food and drink vendors; and,
- No on field cheerleaders, just a few acrobats doing turns.
Perhaps the oddest difference was the use of a loud rooster crowing (The French mascot) to signify the end of the half and of the game.
The DHL yellow truck was used to deliver the game ball.
The partisan fans (attendance unknown as of today) were given French flags free. When les Bleus played, the video screen listed their names, the only time during the event. The hometown crowd sang, “Allez Les Bleus”, gaily waving the Tricolor. Twice, they sang the spirited national anthem. Six tries against Canada delighted these onlookers.
The French played their best match of the long season, spurred on by an enthusiastic crowd. The latter will be singing and cheering when Les Bleus meet the Eagles today.
One small complaint; it was buggy in the humid night.