x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

A scrum in the stands

At the Rugby World Cup in New Zealand, the spectators, with costumes and dances and exuberance, have become part of the spectacle.

From Frenchmen dressed as cockerels to Irishmen in leprechaun outfits, the Rugby World Cup taking place in New Zealand has attracted colourful characters from around the globe.

For weeks, Auckland's neighbourhoods have been adorned with banners mostly in support of New Zealand, but with a significant showing of Tongan, Samoan and Fijian colours in a city with a large Polynesian population.

Even before a ball had been kicked, flash mobs were performing the Haka across the country; one performance that was caught on camera became a YouTube favourite. The Maori war dance is a hallmark of the All Blacks game, but every Kiwi seems to want a chance to stick out his or her tongue.

Visitors have brought their own cultural kit as well. Perhaps heeding the cautionary tale of the vuvuzela at last year's football World Cup, the organisers have banned musical instruments from all venues. This has not gone down well with Scottish fans who have been unable to cheer on their team with the familiar sound of the bagpipes.

The days are over when the great sporting events were merely spectator events. Fans conduct a show of their own. Of course, only one side will win on October 23, but you can bet that every fan will be joining in the party.