The first games were held in Athens in 1896 but did not include Rugby. Rugby was added to the Olympic program for the second Olympiad and featured in the games held at Paris in 1900, London in 1908, Antwerp in 1920, and Paris again in 1924. Shortly after the Paris Games, the IOC cancelled rugby as an Olympic sport - even though rugby sold more tickets than the track and field events celebrated in the movie about the 1924 Olympics, "Chariots of Fire." Read about Rugby in the Olympics here
Then it was cast out until a decision was made on October 9th, 2009 to introduce Rugby Sevens.
In 1928 the IOC turned down the request to stage rugby at the Amsterdam games. Three factors were believed to be behind this: the IOC wanted more emphasis on individual sports; women's athletics had swollen the number of competitors; and the sport did not receive the backing that it should have from the British entries. Officials also cited the French crowds' behavior and the lack of widespread international participation.
Both the Soviet Union in 1980 and South Korea in 1988 made attempts to have rugby readmitted, and it should be pointed out that South Korea came desperately close to achieving their aim.
In a survey held by the Washington Post, Rugby was the most popular sport requested to be added to the Olympics so it was only a matter of time before it was included.
Here I've collected various articles/information pertaining to attempts to re-instate Rugby as an Olympics event:
Rugby aiming for Olympic glory once more
As representatives of the International Olympic Committee visit London to consider which city should host the 2012 Olympic Games, the rugby world is in the middle of a lobbying process which hopes to make rugby sevens an Olympic sport for the 2012 Olympic Games.
Although rugby has not appeared in the Olympics for the last 80 years, the 15-a-side version has appeared in four of the games (1900, Paris; 1908, London; 1920, Antwerp and 1924, Paris). The last time it appeared there were three countries involved (Romania, USA and France) and the USA beat France 17-3 in the final. As the match finished, the partisan French crowd were so riled by the result that there was a pitch invasion and several American supporters were beaten unconscious.
Whether this was the reason for rugby's expulsion from the Games or whether it was the departure of the rugby loving Baron Pierre de Coubertin as IOC President, is not clear, but after an eighty year absence the International Rugby Board is currently in the middle of a new lobbying process which, it hopes, will enable the sevens version of the sport to be included.
Mark Egan, Sevens Tournament Manager of the International Rugby Board, explains, “The IOC are meeting in Singapore in early July. Their main decision is regarding the host city but they are also debating whether to alter the programme of sports within the 2012 Olympics. Rugby is one of five sports being considered for inclusion along with golf, squash, karate and roller sports. We have previously been through this process and rugby was recommended to be included but the programme didn't change. To enable a new sport to become involved, there is the possibility that it would need to replace one of the existing sports as there are concerns by the IOC about the increasing size of the games, so it's not a straight forward process. There is no assurance that the programme will change but we are doing everything we can to persuade them that rugby sevens would make a great Olympic sport.”
The IRB is currently going through a thorough consultation and lobbying process and an application was submitted to the IOC in November. We are working closely with the IOC, providing them with information about sevens and rugby in general.”
Egan believes that it is the sevens version of the sport which would make an ideal Olympic event, “If rugby is included it will be the sevens format. Rugby union is a global sport with 116 member unions. Sevens is in fact more global than the 15-a-side game in terms of competitiveness. Countries from Asia and Africa can compete on a fairly even playing field alongside the more established unions such as England and New Zealand in sevens. It is also a natural fit for the tournament as it is a two day event held in one stadium and can use existing facilities. There is a concern about the continuing growth of the Olympics and so another advantage is that the number of athletes is not that high compared to other sports.
The ethos of rugby – fair play, comradeship etc. - also matches the ethos of the Olympics movement. The IRB is an advanced, sophisticated governing body compared to many other sports and the sport is commercially strong. The Rugby World Cup (15s) is the third largest sporting event in the world, and the sport has huge appeal for broadcasters. We have over three million people participating around the world – men, women, children and the sport is very inclusive.”
Should rugby be successful and become an Olympic sport once more, there would be significant benefits for the sport around the world, “It would be a tremendous boost for the sport globally as nations such as America, China and Russia put significant resources into their Olympic sports. So for example in America, rugby would have access to the Olympic training facilities and to the various government funds which are only available to Olympic athletes.” says Egan.
Dan Lyle, who was captain of the US Eagles Rugby Union team and played in the Zurich Premiership, speaking at the launch of the IRB Sevens in Los Angeles last week, echoed the IRB's view, “We live on a four year Olympic cycle of international sport in America and the Olympics will give rugby legitimacy and our domestic market would really take off. American's will always watch and support other Americans whatever the discipline and rugby sevens is a great event and people will show up and watch. As an ex-player I am also convinced that the very best players would take part in the Olympics – it would be a fantastic experience and mean that the audience would be watching the world's finest athletes in action.”
Should London be successful in its bid to be the host city in 2012, rugby would not necessarily be staged at Twickenham should it become an Olympic sport again. Egan explains, “One of the advantages of rugby is that it can be played in existing facilities and doesn't require additional infrastructure. It could be played in the main Olympic stadium wherever that may be. If you are to believe that Paris and London are the main contenders for host city then they are both strong rugby nations which could work in our favour.”
The popularity and interest in rugby sevens continues to grow around the world and over 80 countries were involved in the qualification for the forthcoming Rugby World Cup Sevens in Hong Kong. Spectator numbers are also on the increase and the commercial strength of the game (the Rugby World Cup attracted 1.5 billion television viewers in 2003) will hopefully add weight to the rugby argument.
The decision won't be made until July but Egan is keen for as many people as possible to show their support for the bid, “Sevens is a fantastically entertaining sport and is enjoyed by people of all ages all around the world. We hope that as many people as possible come along and enjoy the international sevens when it is in each of the different locations so we can show the IOC that rugby would be an excellent addition to the Olympics.”
Rugby Sevens under consideration as Olympic sport
Rugby Sevens could be included in the Olympics at the 2012 games. The International Rugby Board has been officially notified that rugby is one of the five sports being considered for inclusion. The IRB decided that Sevens rugby was the most suitable designated discipline for consideration by the International Olympic Committee. The other sports being considered are squash, golf, karate and roller sports.
On the day that London submits its formal bid for host city of the 2012 games, it could be that Twickenham hosts the Sevens should both the sport and the city be successful in their bids.
Speaking ahead of the team's first tournament in Dubai in a few weeks, England Sevens Coach Mike Friday was excited by the news, "It's great news that rugby has been short listed as a possible Olympic sport. Rugby Sevens is an exciting and entertaining sport and the format would work well in the Olympics - just as it has at the Commonwealth Games. The growing popularity of rugby around the world will hopefully help the IOC decide that Sevens is a worthy Olympic sport. And if London is successful with its bid for the 2012 Olympics, it would be fantastic for Twickenham to be involved and host the Rugby Sevens."
The next stage for the IRB is to complete a IOC survey which details rugby's popularity, image, universality and costs associated with rugby's inclusion in the Games. The IOC will announce its decision in July 2005 when it selects the host city for 2012.
Article from Sporting Life - By Alex Lowe, PA Sport March 8th, 2008
Australia have been approached by the British Olympic Association to play the Barbarians at Wembley Stadium on December 6. The proposed match would form part of the BOA's programme of events to celebrate the centenary of the first London Olympic Games. And Australia, who won the rugby gold medal at the 1908 Olympics, are open to the idea of extending their autumn tour to include one more match.
The Wallabies are already scheduled to play New Zealand in Hong Kong and then Italy, France and England, while a fifth Test against Wales at the Millennium Stadium has also been mooted.
Australian Rugby Union chief executive John O'Neill said: "It's shaping up as quite an exciting tour."
The BOA insist negotiations are "ongoing" over potential opponents for Australia - some reports down under had suggested the Wallabies would play England - but it is believed a Barbarians fixture is being lined up. Twickenham is still in the running to host the match but the BOA would prefer it to be at Wembley, which was the Olympic Stadium in 1948.
Even if the fixture is confirmed there remain significant hurdles to overcome - not least the fact that December 6-7 is designated as a Heineken Cup and European Challenge Cup weekend. Premier Rugby will not release any England-based players for a Barbarians fixture that weekend - and it is difficult to see leading clubs in other countries doing so when they are in European action. However, the Barbarians would have all the other touring countries to select from, with New Zealand, South Africa, Canada and the Pacific Islands all playing Tests in Europe during November. The match would also need to be sanctioned by the International Rugby Board, but the world governing body would welcome the chance to strengthen links between rugby and the Olympics.
Rugby was last an Olympic sport in 1924 - the United States are the reigning champions.
The IRB has announced that its Rugby Sevens World Series has again enjoyed impressive growth in its broadcast figures with the recently completed 2007/08 IRB Sevens World Series regarded as the most successful ever.
The Series will celebrate its tenth anniversary when the 2008/09 Series kicks off in Dubai in late November. Rugby's only international Grand Prix-style event, the IRB Sevens World Series again comprised eight tournaments in Dubai, South Africa, New Zealand, USA, Hong Kong, Australia, England and Scotland. It was televised by a record 33 international broadcasters in 13 different languages and reached 223 million homes (an increase of 10 million on 2006/07) in 135 countries.
According to the IRB’s production and distribution partner ProActive Television, the potential global cumulative reach was 556 million, up 24 million on the previous year. Live coverage again increased to 952 hours, while total television coverage - encompassing the popular delayed-live format - increased by 32% to 1945 hours.
The growing worldwide interest in Rugby Sevens is a further boost to the shortened discipline of the sport, which is played over two action-packed days in one arena. As Series owners, the IRB have chosen the Rugby Sevens discipline for its campaign to have Rugby re-introduced in the Olympic Games due to its popularity, its proven formula in multi-sport events, the excitement and colour it provides as a sport and its sense of fair play, friendship and sportsmanship.
“The continued growth in the TV audience for the IRB Sevens World Series reflects the worldwide popularity of Rugby Sevens,” said International Rugby Board Chairman Bernard Lapasset.
“Sevens is a sporting spectacle, it always provides action, world class players and packed stadia at international locations around the world, making it popular to both broadcasters and Rugby fans alike,” he added.
“It is Rugby in its purest form and of course it can be played in any sports stadium and so does not need an expensive purpose built arena. Rugby Sevens also provides the opportunity for smaller nations and those who don't traditionally feature at the top of medal tables to win a medal.
“Fiji is our current Rugby Sevens World Cup champion, while South Africa, Fiji, Tonga, Samoa, Argentina, Kenya and New Zealand are among the top Rugby Sevens nations.”
Record broadcast figures for RWC Sevens 2009
The International Rugby Board today announced that last month’s Rugby World Cup Sevens 2009 in Dubai shattered all previous tournament broadcast records.
The historic tournament, which was the first to incorporate a 16-team women’s event running alongside the men’s competition, was broadcast to 760 million people in 141 countries through 29 international broadcasters in 19 languages.
The figures, released by the IRB’s broadcast managers ProActive Television, show that total coverage of the world’s premier men’s and women’s Sevens tournament has increased exponentially with 827 hours screened over the three days of competition. This was up 141 percent on the figure for the 2005 event in Hong Kong, which was the most-watched Rugby event of the year. Live coverage also increased from 222 hours in 2005 to 379 hours.
“Rugby World Cup Sevens 2009 in Dubai was a resounding success. Its winning formula of exciting, explosive action, competitive matches, world class men’s and women’s players and plenty of spectacular tries was a major hit with broadcasters the world over and has proven highly successful in reaching out to new audiences,” said IRB President Bernard Lapasset.
“The figures clearly show that while Sevens continues to grow in traditional markets such as Europe and Oceania, there has been significant growth across emerging markets such as North and South America, Asia and Africa where live coverage of the tournament was more than double that of 2005 levels."
“Today’s announcement is another positive step for us and highlights a global enthusiasm for Rugby Sevens at a time when the Game is reaching out for Olympic Games inclusion and illustrating to the Olympic Family its remarkable following around the world,” added Lapasset.
The previous television broadcast record was set at the 2005 tournament in Hong Kong where a truly memorable event was broadcast to 300 million homes worldwide, in 125 countries through 20 international broadcasters.
The Rugby Sevens success story is underpinned by the IRB Sevens World Series, the popular grand prix style championship comprising eight international events, which this year is celebrating its 10th anniversary.
The 2007/08 Series was the most successful to date, televised in 15 countries by 33 international broadcasters and reaching 223 million homes in 13 different languages.
June 18th, 2009
Earlier this week the President and CEO of the IRB, Bernard Lapasset and Mike Miller, led the team which presented the case to the IOC’s executive board for rugby sevens’ inclusion in the Olympic Games.
The team also consisted of Cheryl Soon, captain of the Australian Sevens team that won the Women’s RWC Sevens in Dubai earlier this year, Agustin Pichot, former captain of the Argentina Sevens team, Humphrey Kayange, captain of the Kenyan Sevens team and Anastassiya Khamova, one of Kazakhstan’s top female players and a referee at the RWC Sevens this year.
As previously reported in Rugby Enews, the IRB has been criticised in the past for a perceived lack of effort to expand women’s sevens on the world stage. It is no surprise, then, that this team included a significant female presence.
The response, this time around, also appears to have been overwhelmingly positive.
“I think the reception we received was very good,” Soon said. “There were board members clapping and cheering.
“The sevens format – seven players per team, two seven-minute halves, 24 matches a day – is made for television, made for sponsors and most importantly loved by fans and players alike,” Miller contended.
Rugby hasn’t featured at the Olympic Games since 1924, having been introduced in 1900, and Sevens is one of seven sports which will be voted on by the IOC in October this year for inclusion in the Olympic programme from 2016.
The IOC revealed that it will consider adding Rugby to the Summer Olympics in 2016.
If Rugby Sevens is approved, then the IRC would abolish the Sevens World Championships in favor of the Olympics.
The IOC executive board selected Rugby and Golf from a proposed list of seven sports, which also includes baseball, softball, squash, karate and roller sports. The 15-member board will submit the two sports for ratification in a vote of the full 106-member IOC assembly in Copenhagen in October.
Rugby is considered one of the most popular sport in the world, and is prevalent in Europe, Asia, New Zealand, Australia, Canada and is a booming sport in the United States.
The global Rugby family are celebrating the announcement that Rugby Sevens will be included at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.
An overwhelming vote in favour of inclusion by the International Olympic Committee members at the 121st Session in Copenhagen - Rugby Sevens received 81 'yes' votes to only eight 'no' votes - means that the world's top men's and women's Rugby players will have the opportunity to compete for an Olympic Gold medal, the pinnacle of sporting achievement.
Bernard Lapasset, President of the International Rugby Board, said: "This is a historic moment for our sport and for the global Rugby community, who were united in support of our campaign."
"We are excited and honoured to be joining the Olympic Games and I would like to thank the IOC members for believing in our Olympic vision and our values and recognising that Rugby Sevens is a perfect fit for the Olympic Games."
"The Olympic Games will be the pinnacle of the sport for all our athletes and the Rugby family. The best men's and women's players in the world are excited to be able to showcase their talent on the world's greatest sporting stage."
"We are now looking forward to working in partnership with the IOC to develop and implement a Rugby Sevens tournament in Rio that will reach out to new audiences and inspire a new generation of sports fans around the world," added Lapasset.
26 January 2010 IRB and IOC preparing for Olympic inclusion (IRB.com)
Planning for Rugby Sevens' debut at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janerio started in earnest today as International Rugby Board (IRB) President Bernard Lapasset and his team travelled to Lausanne for meetings with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the Association of Summer Olympic International Federations (ASOIF).
The meetings, the first between the organisations since the IOC overwhelmingly voted Rugby Sevens into the Olympic Games last October at the 121st Session in Copenhagen, will kick-start the formal collaborative process as the sport prepares for 2016.
Lapasset and his team will use the preliminary meetings as a constructive platform to discuss all aspects of Olympic Games inclusion.
"I am delighted to be in Lausanne today to begin working in close collaboration with the IOC on our journey towards the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio. Our campaign for inclusion was an opportunity for us to explain why Rugby is good for the Games and the Games good for Rugby," said Lapasset.
"Today we start giving life to this vision and look forward to providing guidance in the coming years to our National Unions (Federations) on leveraging this opportunity while also welcoming new nations into the Rugby Family. Rugby is about successful partnerships and teamwork and we will bring the same commitment to our work with the Olympic Family."
IOC Sports Director Christophe Dubi said: "Success in Rugby requires all the players on a team to work in close collaboration towards a common goal and it is the same for sports that are a part of the Olympic Programme. We are delighted to have President Lapasset, Secretary General Mike Miller and the IRB team with us in Lausanne and we are sure that the spirit of collaboration evident in the meetings will guide us to a very successful Games for the Olympic Movement and Rugby Sevens in Rio in 2016."
ASOIF Director Andrew Ryan said: "The Olympic Federations are very excited about having the IRB as a member of our group and expect it to be an important contributor in many areas beyond the Games alone."
The popularity of Rugby Sevens has further accelerated since the IOC decision with increased attendance and broadcast figures achieved for the opening rounds of the 2009/10 IRB Sevens World Series. Emerging Rugby nations Brazil, Germany and Russia are also in the race to host Rugby World Cup Sevens 2013, all keen to showcase a sport that works so well on television and has such widespread international appeal for spectators.
While Rugby Sevens continues to reach out to new audiences around the world, the IRB is currently in the process of conducting a major overhaul of its Sevens Strategic Plan, a process that will provide the blueprint for growth across all areas as the sport prepares for its Olympic Games debut.
"The IRB Sevens Strategic Plan underpinned the unprecedented growth of men's and women's Rugby Sevens, culminating in the global Rugby family realising its Olympic dream," said Lapasset.
"With that major strategic goal achieved, the current five year contractual cycle of the IRB Sevens World Series entering its penultimate year and collaboration with the IOC under way, it is now the appropriate time to move to the next phase of strategic planning considering all aspects of Rugby Sevens' development around the world."
"This process has the purpose of delivering the framework for Rugby Sevens at all levels to continue to flourish and reach out to new markets, new communities and new male and female players of all ages, while ensuring that all our Unions have access to a development and tournament pathway that optimises the effects of Olympic Games inclusion."
27th October 2010 - IRB outlines Olympic planning to ANOC
Rugby Sevens took centre stage in Acapulco, Mexico, last week as the IRB was given the opportunity to present to delegates from the 205 National Olympic Committees attending the Association of National Olympic Committees 2010 General Assembly.
Former IRB Council Member Carlos Tozzi delivered a keynote speech in Spanish to the assembled delegates to outline the significant progress made by the global Rugby family since Rugby Sevens was overwhelmingly voted on to the Olympic Games sporting programme by the IOC Congress in October last year.
Tozzi’s speech focused on partnership with the IOC, partnership with the NOCs, Olympic Games qualification and restructuring of the Sevens Strategic Plan – a review that will provide the blueprint for the continued prosperity of men’s and women’s Sevens on a global scale.
“We are proud and honoured to be rejoining the Olympic family. The Olympic Games will be the pinnacle of Rugby Sevens for all our athletes and the Rugby family, who were unified in their support of our campaign,” said Tozzi.
“Our planning for the Rio Olympic Games commenced on October 9, 2009, the very day Rugby Sevens along with Golf were announced in the 2016 and 2020 Olympic Programmes.
“Our early focus has been on building relationships and establishing processes between all 117 National Member Federations, or Unions as we also call them, and their respective NOCs.
“We want to ensure that in each country the correct Olympic framework is in place to support the continued development of Rugby and the continued development of Sport in each country.
“Working together we will all ensure that Rugby's return to the Olympic Games will help realise the sporting dreams and ambitions of young men and women across the world, no matter what sport they choose to participate in.”
Appropriately for a sport that delivers fast, competitive action set within a festival backdrop that brings nationalities and cultures together to celebrate sport, Rugby Sevens will make its debut at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio – one of the world’s party capitals..
A strong partnership has been forged between the IRB and the Rio 2016 Organising Committee, and with six years to go until the Games gets underway discussions have already taken place regarding the prospective venue, training facilities, event management and growing the Game in Brazil.
“We are focused on how we can work with the committee to produce an outstanding event in 2016 while at the same time increase the participation in our sport in Brazil,” added Tozzi.
“We are very impressed with Rio’s progress so far and I want to take this opportunity to thank in particular Mr. Agberto Guimaraes, the Sports Director for Rio 2016, for the outstanding support and advice that he has extended to both the IRB and the Brazilian Rugby Federation.”
And with just over a month to go until a new era kicks off for Rugby Sevens with the opening leg of the eight-event 2010/11 HSBC Sevens World Series taking place in Dubai, the IRB is well advanced in ensuring that the global framework is in place to ensure Sevens’ future at all levels is one of growth and prosperity.
This year, the IRB has also completed a comprehensive review of the global Sevens structure with input from Member Unions, players, coaches and managers from the men’s and women’s Game as well as broadcasters and sponsors.
This process began in January with a survey of the entire IRB Membership. The findings helped in the formulation of the Draft Sevens Strategic Plan, which sets out policies for the growing of Rugby and includes proposed qualification structures for the 2016 and 2020 Olympic Games.
Rugby for all
“The plan was tabled by the IRB Executive earlier this month and is currently with our Member Unions for further comments and input. One of its key components is the development of a sustainable international competition pathway for all our Member Unions which includes draft scenarios for Olympic qualification.”
Qualification is central to the IRB’s preparations and the global Governing body continues to work in collaboration with the IOC on the proposals in advance of any qualification structure for the men’s and women’s competitions being considered formally for approval in 2014.
“However, much work can be done before this to lay down the foundations of a strong qualification system. Rugby continues to grow in popularity throughout the world and we believe that there should be representation from each of the five Olympic continents at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games,” continued Tozzi.
"The IRB is spending more than US$300 million on development programmes over the next four years aimed at increasing global playing standards and the Global Strategic Investment Programme continues to help fund Rugby’s growth in the men’s and women’s Game.”
“Rugby is now played by over three million registered players in 117 countries. And rugby Sevens, in particular, is played across the IRB’s six global regions by both men and women in over 100 countries. We want Rugby to be played across all 205 Olympic countries.”
4th February 2011 - Sevens Olympic plans continue in Wellington
Representatives of the Rio 2016 Organising Committee for the Olympic and Paralympic Games were today welcomed by senior members of the International Rugby Board at the HSBC Sevens World Series event in Wellington, New Zealand.
Sports Facilities Architecture Specialist, Gustavo Nascimento and Head of Sport Policy and Operations, Rodrigo Garcia, are visiting the event as part of the planning process for Rugby Sevens’ debut at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. They were greeted by IRB President Bernard Lapasset, Secretary General Mike Miller and Vice President Bill Beaumont.
The visiting members will be focusing on the technical requirements of Rugby Sevens, including the operational needs and optimum venue dynamics and design configuration. The delegation will observe all aspects of the operational running of a tournament from team services, match management and officiating to host broadcaster and media management systems. They will also attend a series of meetings with the IRB's Sevens Manager Beth Coalter.
The visit highlights the IRB and Rio 2016’s collaborative approach and commitment to delivering a world class Rugby Sevens tournament and growing the sport around the world and builds upon the extremely productive meetings held in Rio last year.
Bernard Lapasset, IRB President, said: “This visit represents another important landmark along the way to Rugby Sevens’ Olympic Games debut in Rio de Janeiro in 2016 and underscores our strong working relationship with the 2016 Organising Committee.”
“We are looking forward to sharing our operational knowledge with Gustavo and Rodrigo to accelerate the detailed planning and preparation process. It is very clear that both parties share the same vision and commitment to making Rugby Sevens at the 2016 Olympic Games a stand out event.”
Rodrigo Garcia, Head of Sport Policy and Operations, Rio 2016, said: “It is crucial for Rio 2016 to understand the infrastructural and logistical requirements to cater for all stakeholders involved in a Rugby Sevens competition. It will be a priceless opportunity to discuss operational routine and design related challenges and we would like to thank the IRB for inviting us to what will certainly be a very fruitful visit.”
Since Rugby Sevens was voted onto the Olympic Games programme in 2009, the IRB has been driving forward a new Sevens Strategic Plan that will ensure that its Olympic debut is not only successful, but provides the blueprint for the continued growth of the sport around the world through a process of development initiatives and regional tournaments, including Olympic Games qualification.
The excitement within the Rugby family is building and already a number of National Federations are experiencing the benefits of inclusion, establishing relationships with their National Olympic Committees (NOCs) and widening the scope of Rugby on the national school curriculum.
The NZI Sevens in Wellington, from February 4-5, is one of eight HSBC Sevens World Series tournaments. It will be followed by the USA Sevens, in Las Vegas on February 12-13.