Dubai's Rubgy Sevens dresses up

Sporting event provides boon for fancy dress shops, with notable spectators expected including Batman, Superman and Captain Britannica.

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DUBAI // You wait ages for a matador, then 25 come along at once. The Dubai Rugby Sevens, which starts today, will inspire thousands of visitors and residents to don fancy dress.

In the stands, Captain Britannica will rub shoulders with Superman, Batman and a number of nurses. And as rugby fans prepare for the three-day event, fancy dress shops have been inundated with requests for outfits.

"It's all part of the fun," said Ashley Goddard. This will be his fourth time at the Rugby Sevens. Last year, he and five friends dressed up as whoopee cushions and won an award for the weekend's best costumes.

"Some people sit and watch the rugby but there is a whole other life at the Sevens," Mr Goddard said. "I can't say we've sat in the stands. All we do is walk around the pitch and make a nuisance of ourselves."

The sillier you look, he says, the easier it is to meet people. "It all comes down to your personality. It's a good way to break the ice with people. It starts conversation and is a lot more sociable."

Get the costumes right, and a group of five people could end the day as 55. "I have a friend who I met three years ago on the bus back into Dubai and we still keep in touch," he said.

The first time he went, he and his friends wore T-shirts bearing the name of their home town in Britain, Teignmouth in Devon. From there, there was no going back. "The following year, we went to Karama and bought extra clothes, like cowboy hats."

The next year, Mr Goddard spotted sumo wrestler suits and ordered five of them from Britain. The following year they went as elves. This year, though, he and his friends are taking a break and staying at home.

Earlier this year, James Davies-Yandle, a Welshman, had a dream about matadors. He knew exactly what to do. "I sent an e-mail out to about 20 friends the next morning saying that was what we were going to wear," said the 31-year-old.

The business development engineer went to a tailor in Karama with his designs. "We are all going in different colours but the same design. The tailors love it but they find it rather strange - 25 young professionals all dressing up."

He has been going to the same tailor for three years. "We've gone as redcoats [holiday camp staff], elves, and last year we went as Bavarians in lederhosen."

For that, he learnt some Bavarian dance moves, by studying the Chevy Chase film European Vacation. "We learnt all the moves, like slapping the thighs and dancing around. The atmosphere was just excellent."

Mr Davies-Yandle and his band of bullfighters will not be alone. Catherine Korb, the manager of Mr Ben's Costume Closet in Satwa, said the shop had received a steady string of enquiries since October.

"They just want to make sure they have a costume for the Rugby Sevens," she said.

She has sold 15 Captain Britannica outfits, which bear a Union flag design over a large fake belly, to one group, while another group has taken all seven dwarves. Dracula had gone, as had the shop's one-off latex Superman and Batman outfits. "There have just been groups of guys coming in the door all week," she said.

Over three days, 160 invitation sides from all over the world, as well as 16 international teams, will compete in a variety of tournaments.

New Zealand will defend their HSBC Sevens World Series title against Australia, South Africa and England, among others. The final will take place on Saturday.

Last year 86,000 spectators attended. Coverage was beamed to 140 countries and watched in 255 million homes.

Entry today is free. Tickets for tomorrow and Saturday will be on sale at the gate at The Sevens' grounds on the Dubai to Al Ain road. Children under 12 areb given free admission.