The global rugby family faces a last few pivotal days in the run-up to the IOC vote in Copenhagen on October 9, when it will be decided whether Sevens is to be admitted to the 2016 Olympic Games.
While leading figures from the International Rugby Board (IRB) are in Copenhagen to present to the IOC, some top names from USA Rugby will be in New York City promoting the sport in The Big Apple.
As part of its final push this week, USA Rugby’s CEO Nigel Melville will be joined in NYC by Sevens Coach Al Caravelli, and U.S. Sevens Team members Mark Bokhoven (Denver Barbarians) and Jen Sinkler (Keystone) as they hit major media outlets and host a gathering following the Olympic decision announcement on Friday as part of the USA’s promotions of the sevens game.
Rugby supporters and media are invited to the Sevens announcement events in NYC (details to the left) and are urged to get behind the campaign and register its support in a poll running on online Olympic publication InsidetheGames.biz.
The IRB Sevens World Series has proved a compelling shop window for the Sevens game over the past 10 years and in recent times rugby’s only true World Series has attracted record broadcast and attendance figures.
The game has also already proved a massive hit at various multisport games around the world and, with the potential of now being played on the world of sport’s biggest stage, the Olympic Games, the sport’s top stars have made it clear that they would play for the honor of calling themselves Olympians.
Within rugby circles, Sevens is seen as the perfect fit for the Olympics, because of its guaranteed skill, pace and excitement delivered within the window of just two or three days, and in the men’s and women’s game.
The sport also offers genuine opportunities to nations who are not often near the top of the Games medals table and would boost rugby’s popularity in the U.S. to unimaginable levels.
“I don’t think people realize yet how big this could be for rugby,” said IRB Chief Executive, Mike Miller. “The Olympic Games is the biggest stage in the world for sport. It would be massive for the game.”
Speaking on behalf of the U.S. game, Melville added his sentiment, saying “In the USA, rugby is growing by the day. We have thousands of young players now picking up a rugby ball for the first time. If Rugby Sevens were to be included in the Olympic Games, the sport would have an even greater appeal to an even wider audience as there is no better global sporting stage than the Olympic Games.
The sport of rugby was actually included in four previous Olympic Games in 1900, 1908, 1920 and 1924. The Americans are technically the two-time defending Olympic gold medal champions, following wins against France in both 1920 and 1924. The last Olympic rugby match was played at Colombes stadium in Paris and the USA took the gold with a 17-3 victory before 30,000 fans.
“From an early age, Americans believe that the greatest success an athlete can achieve is becoming an Olympian and competing in the Olympics,” Men’s Sevens Coach Al Caravelli said. “If rugby is included in the Olympics, I believe we will see more athletes taking up rugby who previously played other American sports. And, the United States has a massive quantity of these untapped athletes who failed to make the next level or go professional in their original disciplines. If rugby becomes an Olympic sport, one of our goals will be to convert these athletes into rugby players.”
Currently, the U.S. Men’s Sevens Team is ranked 11th in the world, while the U.S. Men’s 15s side is 18th. America is also featured as one of the eight IRB Sevens World Series stops and is the largest international rugby event held in the U.S. Bringing in a crowd of nearly 35,000 during the two days of men’s and women’s sevens competition in 2009, this upcoming year’s event, which is set for Las Vegas, is looking to be bigger and better than ever.
The Women’s Rugby Sevens game is also becoming increasingly popular in the U.S. and beyond, with the historic addition of the women’s competition to the Rugby World Cup (RWC) Sevens lineup in 2009.
More than 83 nations competed for the 16 qualification spots to the Women’s Rugby World Cup and thanks to the broadcast of many of the best women’s matches, the world saw first hand the intense competition that the top women’s sevens teams bring to the game.
The U.S. Women’s Sevens Team is among the top programs in the world, making the semifinals in the 2009 RWC event and continuing to develop several domestic and international events for their squad including a Women’s City-Based Sevens League to spur the development of rugby sevens in the U.S.
“Rugby is a sport that has seen a great rise in female participation. More attention and formal organization has meant exponential growth in the sport at all levels. The level of play at the 2009 Sevens Rugby World Cup was a testament to this,” USA Women’s Sevens player Ines Rodriguez said. “As an athlete, I have always dreamed of being an Olympic athlete, but beyond my personal dreams is the dream of growing the sport of rugby into a global game beyond the major ‘rugby playing nations’. If rugby was allowed in the Olympic Games, I’m certain we would see a similar growth and development as women’s soccer did following the Olympics in 1996.”
Caravelli added, “The true beauty of modern Sevens is that there isn’t a large gap between the top teams and some of the supposed ‘lesser’ nations,” Caravelli added. “The World Series continues to demonstrate that upsets are always possible and a Cinderella team medaling in the Olympics, if we are included, is indeed a possibility. “If we do get into the Olympics, I believe the sky is the limit.
Our sport would explode on an unforeseen global scale. Nations not traditionally associated with rugby will experience a profound growth and hopefully will compete with the traditional superpowers, creating an even more entertaining product and making Sevens a truly global game.”
Check out Rugby Sevens new ‘Reaching Out’ video here: http://www.irb.com/mm/Video/Home/0/IRB02_512x288_500kbits_8444.wmv.
And for more information on the push for Rugby Sevens’ inclusion in the Olympic Games, please visit www.irb.com or contact Sara John at firstname.lastname@example.org.