Outgoing World Rugby chairman Bernard Lapasset says that the sevens competitions at Rio 2016 will be a “game-changing” moment for the sport.
The Frenchman, who announced this week that he won’t be seeking a third term in the job, believes that the impact of Olympic inclusion has already achieved positive results.
Rio de Janeiro will be given a taste of what to expect at the Games in August this weekend when the official test event is held at the new Deodoro venue.
The sport was voted onto the programme by the International Olympic Committee in 2009, along with golf.
“Olympic Games participation will be a game-changer for rugby’s growth and popularity worldwide,” said Lapasset, who is to leave World Rugby to focus on Paris’ bid to host the 2024 Olympics and Paralympics.
“Global participation has already doubled since the vote in 2009, with women’s participation increasing by five times.
“Our unions have experienced significant National Olympic Committee investment and support and rugby has been added to the school programme in places where Olympic sports are taught.
“We campaigned for inclusion knowing this, but the response has been incredible.”
World Rugby claim that as many as 250 million people across the world are either interested or very interested in rugby, citing market research.
With big names set to enter the men’s and women’s sevens tournaments, including Sonny Bill Williams, Jen Kish, Bryan Habana, Portia Woodman, Liam Messam, Jillion Potter and Quade Cooper, Lapasset expects that interest to surge.
“The Olympic opportunity will further rugby’s reach and appeal globally, there is no doubt about that, which is very exciting,” he said.
“Collectively we are prepared to capitalise on this surge in interest and have been working with our unions to future-proof sustainable growth.”
The test event will begin tomorrow and conclude on Saturday (March 6) and will feature the top women’s teams from South America.
Hosts Brazil will be joined by fellow Rio 2016 qualifiers Colombia as well as Argentina, Venezuela, Uruguay, Chile, Paraguay and Peru.
World Rugby Head of Competitions and Performance Mark Egan, who is in Rio for the test event, said: “The test event is an important milestone in operational readiness and will provide the Rio 2016 organising committee and World Rugby with invaluable testing ahead of the Games.
“The region’s top women’s rugby sevens players will be in action and they are excited and honoured to be the first to compete at our Olympic Games venue.
“We are pleased with the progress so far and look forward to August when the vibrant venue and exciting men’s and women’s Olympic rugby events promise to be popular with fans from Brazil and around the world.”
- By Dan Palmer
- Republished with permission insidethegames.biz