HONOLULU – The world’s largest Junior Men’s and Women’s (Under-20) annual Sevens Rugby championship tournament, ALOHA WORLD SEVENS (AWS), takes center stage in Honolulu next year featuring 24 representative teams from 24 countries.
The AWS venue is the 50,000-seat Aloha Stadium, Hawai’i’s most prestigious sports facility. It is also the largest stadium site for any major annual Rugby tournament in the United States.
“We are very excited to introduce and host the 3-day ALOHA WORLD SEVENS (AWS) as the world’s largest Junior Sevens Rugby (U20) international championship tournament. It is the first world class Rugby tournament of this scale ever held in Hawai’i,” according to Reg Schwenke, AWS Co-Founder, President and Chief Executive Officer. He added: “We plan to make Hawai’i our permanent home and further enhance the state’s image as a world-class sports and multicultural destination.”
The ALOHA WORLD SEVENS tournament is scheduled from Thursday, June 5, through Saturday, June 7, 2014, with 16 Men’s and 8 Women’s teams competing. It will include 68 competition matches – 24 matches on Day 1; 24 on Day 2 and 20 matches on Day 3. All Men’s teams will play six matches over three days and the Women’s teams will play five. Each participating country is represented by only one team.
ESPN 1420 AM Radio or NBC Sports Radio 1500 AM in Honolulu will broadcast live over the Internet selected high profile AWS matches each of the three days of the ALOHA WORLD SEVENS tournament, including the Men’s and Women’s semi-finals and final AWS championship matches.
The final ALOHA WORLD SEVENS competition line up will be based on world IRB rankings and timely responses from invited rugby unions. USA Rugby’s President and Chief Executive Officer will assist AWS in coordinating contact with the world’s top national rugby union officials to ensure there will be a full complement of teams.
The ALOHA WORLD SEVENS tournament has already been officially sanctioned by USA Rugby, the national organization that governs the sport in the U.S.
“USA Rugby enthusiastically supports the initiative and hard work behind the development of the ALOHA WORLD SEVENS (AWS) international championship tournament. We have been working with them for over a year,” said Nigel Melville, President and Chief Executive Officer for USA Rugby, adding that “there is so much talent and untapped potential for development of the sport in Hawai’i.”
Melville noted that “many former USA Eagles Sevens and 15’s national team members have come from Hawai’i and have proudly represented the state and our country. That will continue and the ALOHA WORLD SEVENS will only encourage and foster more talented Rugby players for the Eagles.’
AWS invitations will be sent to the following countries: USA, New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, Samoa, Fiji, Tonga, France, England, Ireland, Wales, Scotland, Kenya, Hong Kong, Argentina, Italy, Japan, China, United Arab Emirates, Brazil, Canada, Philippines, Spain, Portugal, Russia, Uruguay, Georgia, Namibia, Romania, South Korea, Belgium, Zimbabwe, Tunisia, Netherlands, Cook Islands, and American Samoa.
Sevens Rugby is a fast-paced, exciting and generally high scoring game with 7-minute halves and 2-minute halftime periods. The worldwide popularity of Sevens Rugby is evidenced by the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) addition of the sport to the Olympic Games, beginning with the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Hawai’i Governor Neil Abercrombie and Lt. Governor Shan Tsutsui announced last Tuesday (October 15) in a major joint press conference the establishment of a new Sports Development Initiative (SDI) to encourage and foster more international and world class sporting events in Hawai’i by “taking the lead role and advantage of the state’s unique characteristics in becoming an (sports development) anchor in the Asia-Pacific region.”
Lt. Governor Tsutsui, who will oversee the new SDI, met with ALOHA WORLD SEVENS co-founders Reg, McKay and Carolyne Craig Schwenke the same day of the press conference and voiced his unwavering support.
“We are ecstatic that Hawai’i will be hosting the ALOHA WORLD SEVENS tournament next year. The tournament is a fine example of how teams from all over the world can converge in Hawai’i to showcase their sport,” said Lt. Governor Shan Tsutsui.
“The ALOHA WORLD SEVENS is in alignment with our new Sports Development Initiative (SDI), which seeks to expand and enhance our sports portfolio in hosting and attracting international events, making Hawai’i the center-stage of athletic events in the Asia-Pacific region,” he added.
At the suggestion of Hawai’i Tourism Authority to spotlight Hawai’i’s high caliber Sevens Rugby talent, the AWS organizers are including two exhibition matches featuring Junior Men’s and Women’s (Under-20) Sevens Rugby All-Star teams from Oahu against Neighbor Island All-Star teams. To add additional local flavor and family fun to the AWS tournament, there will be six Keiki (children’s) Under-10 Exhibition Flag Rugby matches over three days.
“We hope AWS’s collective efforts to enhance Hawai‘i’s economy and global exposure as a first class venue for international sporting and multicultural events becomes a reality,” said Michael Story, Tourism Brand and Sport Manager for Hawai‘i Tourism Authority.
The lifeblood of this and any major event of this scale is the corporate partners or sponsors involved. Current AWS sponsors include the Polynesian Cultural Center; Enterprise Rent-a-Car; WorldRugbyShop.com; ESPN 1420 and NBC Sports Radio 1500 (Honolulu); PacificBasin Communications; Pepsi, Rukutai International (China); and Adult Friends for Youth (AFY). Other major sponsorships are under review or being negotiated.
“For the ALOHA WORLD SEVENS to become an unparalleled world class event, we want more major sponsorships and funding support from local, national and international private sector companies,” Schwenke noted.
To provide more memorable AWS game-time experiences, “we know the ‘aloha spirit’ of Hawai’i is unique, infectious and cannot be duplicated. We plan to incorporate “Adopt a Country” general admission seating sections in the stadium where fans can cheer for their national country teams or adopt an international team to root for. It’s going to be a crazy fun, entertaining and family friendly environment. We want it to be a memorable and unforgettable experience for everyone in attendance. More importantly, we want all AWS fans to be safe and come back year after year,” Schwenke added.
A former Vice President and Senior Vice President for five years at the Polynesian Cultural Center (PCC)., Schwenke was previously a reporter for the Honolulu Advertiser, an award-winning reporter at Pacific Business News, a Legislative Intern and staff writer with the Honolulu Star Bulletin and original Editor & Publisher for TotalBlueSports.com and TOTAL BLUE SPORTS magazine in Utah.
He also created and developed the Hawai’i Sterling Scholar Awards program for PCC in 1987 – America’s most comprehensive high school educational awards program offerng $144,000 in annual unencumbered scholarship awards. The annual final awards program was televised live on KHNL TV in prime-time.
In the mid 80s, he founded and served as President of the Aloha Liberty Foundation, which generated major national positive media attention, raising more than $250,000 in Hawai’i for the 100-year anniversary and restoration of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island monuments in New York City. He was not a citizen at the time. He was later selected by Gov. George Ariyoshi in 1986 as one of Hawai’i’s two representatives to be sworn in as a U.S. citizen on Ellis Island by the Hon. Warren Berger, Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.
Schwenke and wife/business partner Carolyne are also the Creators and Executive Producers of ALOHA CHINA, a film documentary in development detailing a unique “cultural love story” between Hawai’i and China.
McKay Schwenke, AWS Co-Founder, Executive Vice President and Tournament Director, said “our AWS tournament will actively reach out to various ethnic communities and consular offices in Hawai’i to support their representative teams from visiting countries.
Unlike virtually all other Rugby-related tournaments and events worldwide noted for the sport’s fun “beer-drinking culture”, the ALOHA WORLD SEVENS organizers will NOT serve alcoholic beverages in any of their official events and activities because of their specific youth Under-20 participant demographic.
“We have an obligation to ensure our competition is not marred by intoxicated, disruptive or unruly fans because of the presence of many families with young children,” Schwenke concluded.
He will oversee all AWS tournament field functions. To ensure a higher standard of play and officiating, top referees for the AWS tournament certified by the IRB or USA Rugby will be flown in from outside Hawai’i. USA Rugby is assisting in selecting the best qualified officials for the tournament.
Schwenke noted “we are using the AWS international tournament as a stepping stone to highlight the non-contact Keiki Olympic Flag Rugby we plan to introduce to Hawai’i schools and various communities in the months leading up to our tournament. The objective is to develop better motor skills among Hawai’i’s children and youth in all through the various facets of the sport of rugby,” he added.
In his current capacity as Vice President of Adult Friends for Youth (AFY), is passionate about adopting various forms of rugby – Sevens Rugby, Touch Rugby and regular tackle rugby – to promote health, wellness and increasing physical activity to help combat obesity, overweight and other health issues among children.
McKay Schwenke was a former head rugby coach at Brigham Young University-Hawai’i for two years and played on the university team that won four Hawai’i state rugby titles. He has been Hawai’i’s most prominent organizer of Youth Sevens Rugby events with his annual Youth Sevens Rugby tournaments sponsored by AFY since 2005. He organized the first annual youth Sevens Rugby tournament in Hawai’i called the Aloha Youth 7’s – with participating teams from Hawai’i, U.S. mainland, New Zealand and Canada.
Both Reg and McKay Schwenke are of Samoan/German ethnicity, but were born and raised in Auckland, New Zealand.
The AWS co-founders have set loftier goals for the future development of their ALOHA WORLD SEVENS tournament and related special events under the parent organization, AWS Events Group LLC, a Hawai’i-based entity.
Carolyne Craig Schwenke, AWS Co-Founder and Senior Vice President, noted that “one of the critical future goals of our AWS Events Group is to provide unprecedented opportunities for multicultural interaction, exchange and learning about dance, music, performing arts and fashions of other world cultures involved with our AWS tournament.”
Carolyne is spearheading an AWS international multicultural festival that will be unveiled with the second annual 2015 AWS tournament featuring top performing groups and fashion contingents from the international countries participating in the tournament.
An accomplished Maori/Samoan/Scottish and third-generation Chinese businesswoman from New Zealand, she is currently Chairman and Chief Executive Officer for a Shanghai-based company in China with a 20-year WFOE (Wholly Foreign Owned Enterprise) China license to conduct business in seven different areas of commerce – International Business, Technology, Financial Investment, Education, Travel, Immigration and Environmental Management.
She has over 30 years of business development and more than 10 years of event management in international events. She has generated new development projects for international companies entering China. New Zealand’s Maori Television channel featured Carolyne and her business in 2006 and 2010 on separate TV business profiles about her journey into China. She is also a Creator and Executive Producer of ALOHA CHINA with her husband and business partner.
ALOHA WORLD SEVENS tickets will go on sale in November on Ticketmaster.com web site and through their worldwide offices, at the ALOHA WORLD SEVENS web site at www.AWSrugby.com and also at Aloha Stadium in Honolulu.