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Rugby: 'Uriko' beer vendors on tap for World Cup

A beer vendor is pictured at Tokyo Stadium (Ajinomoto Stadium), on Sept. 20, 2019. (Kyodo)

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- As the first Rugby World Cup to be held in Asia kicked off Friday, organizers in Japan have turned to a novel tactic to make sure enough beer is available to satisfy thirsty spectators at tournament stadiums.

    "Uriko," the Japanese word for beer vendors that scale the stands carrying kegs on their backs, are ubiquitous at professional baseball games in the country. Almost always smiley young women, some uriko have become wildly popular and even gone on to become TV personalities.

    And while they are a rare sight at rugby games, with concession stands usually enough to get the job done, a total of 1,650 uriko are slated to be deployed across tournament venues with the task of quenching the thirst of overseas fans with a reputation for enjoying a beer, or seven.

    Overseas venues such as London's Twickenham Stadium, the setting for the final game of the 2015 World Cup, are better equipped than Japanese facilities to keep the beer flowing, especially during the peak 15-minute drink-buying time at halftime.

    The decision to use uriko was reached by organizing committee officials and World Rugby after they saw them at a baseball game being played at Jingu Stadium, which happened to be right next to their Tokyo office.

    "They were very well-mannered and pleasant," one of the officials said.

    The uriko for the World Cup will not carry kegs, instead serving beer from cans. The sole venue that they will not see the beer servers in action is Kamaishi Recovery Memorial Stadium in Iwate Prefecture, the smallest of the 12 venues.

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