With 155 days to go until rugby sevens makes its Olympic Games debut,
World Rugby Chairman Bernard Lapasset believes that Rio 2016 will be a game-changing moment for a sport that is experiencing record global growth. Speaking ahead of the rugby sevens test event at the Deodoro Olympic Park this weekend, Lapasset said that Olympic inclusion has already had a profound effect on participation and profile in emerging rugby markets, while Rio 2016 will enable rugby to reach, engage and inspire even more new audiences.
“Olympic Games participation will be a game-changer for rugby’s growth and popularity
worldwide. Global participation has already doubled since the vote in 2009, with women’s participation increasing by five times,” said Lepasset. “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.”
The latest market research suggests that there are as many as 250 million people worldwide either very interested or interested in rugby and Lapasset believes that number will surge when rugby sevens’ top players showcase their talent on sport’s greatest stage. Attracted by the prestige of an Olympic medal, rugby’s biggest stars, including Sonny Bill Williams, Jen Kish, Bryan Habana, Portia Woodman, Liam Messam, Jillion Potter and Quade Cooper, are all eyeing Rio 2016 and are set to thrill at what promises to be a vibrant venue with a festival atmosphere.
“The Olympic opportunity will further rugby’s reach and appeal globally, there is no doubt about that, which is very exciting,” added Lapasset. “Collectively we are prepared to capitalise on this surge in interest and have been working with our unions to future-proof sustainable growth.”
In Rio this weekend, the top women’s teams from South America will be the first to try out the new Deodoro venue, which is on track to be a popular feature of the Rio Games. As part of Rio 2016’s ongoing readiness programme, the test event will be an invaluable excercise in operational testing. Favourites and hosts Brazil will be joined by fellow Rio 2016 qualifiers Colombia as well as Argentina and Venezuela, who will compete in the Rio 2016 repechage event in Dublin in June for the remaining place at the Games, 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.”
This story first appeared in the blog, The Sport Intern. The editor is Karl-Heinz Huba of Lorsch, Germany. He can be reached at ISMG@aol.com. The article is reprinted here with permission of Huba.