Pioneering Romanians added to Hall of Fame
The International Rugby Board has inducted the pioneering Romania team from the 1924 Olympic Games into the IRB Hall of Fame.
Secretary of the IRB Hall of Fame Chris Thau presented the ceremonial cap and gold pin to Antoniu Nedelcovici, the son of former Romanian Olympic medallist Paul Nedelcovici, at a special induction ceremony at the National Stadium Arcul de Triumf, Bucharest, on Wednesday.
The Romania team becomes the 52nd inductee into the prestigious IRB Hall of Fame. And fittingly, the presentation was made at the very place where Romanian Rugby started around 100 years ago. The first matches in the country were played on what was then called Federatiei playing fields.
“It is a huge occasion to be here on behalf of my father and all his teammates who played in the 1924 Olympics. I am so proud and happy and wish this to inspire the Romanian athletes before the London Olympic Games. This means a lot to me and my family and I wish to thank the IRB and Romanian Federation,” Mr Nedelcovici said.
Romania's first ever medal at the Olympic Games
The team won the bronze medal at the Games, which took place in the French capital, Paris, and the players were seen as trailblazers for the sport of Rugby in Romania. It was Romania’s first ever Olympic medal in any sport.
The team was selected from three clubs, Stadiul Roman, Sportul Studentesc and Tennis Club Roman, with the majority coming from the national champion Stadiul Roman, a club launched some 10 years earlier by the then teenage Romania captain Nicolae Marascu, based on the model of Stade Francais.
President of the Romanian Olympic Committee Octavian Morariu said: "The 1924 Olympic medal, the first of the 292 won by Romanian athletes since, has been the cornerstone for the subsequent growth of Romanian sport in general and Rugby in particular. However, the 23 Romanian Rugby players did not travel to Paris to win Olympic medals. Those were the pioneering days of Romanian sport and for them this was one of the greatest adventures of their lives, which enabled them to experience the novelty of international contest, the excitement of playing in front of large crowds and the joy of making friends for life.”
“The 1924 Olympic Rugby tournament was a formative experience for them and Romanian sport, and interestingly, all this is as valid now as we prepare for the 2012 Olympic Games. The fact that the Romanian team came home as Olympic medallists inspired Romanian sportsmen ever since. This is why for me as former rugby player and President of the Romanian Olympic Committee, the induction of these pioneers of Romanian Rugby into the IRB Hall of Fame is a momentous occasion, something our Olympians will recall with pride and joy when we travel to London in a few weeks’ time."
They gave Romanian Rugby a sense of direction and purpose
Alin Petrache, Deputy Chairman of the National Authority for Youth and Sport and a former captain of Romania, said: “This is a great moment for Romanian Rugby. The 1924 Olympic pioneers put the newly born Romanian Rugby on the map, giving it a sense of direction and purpose. We regard the 1924 Olympians as the founding fathers of our game whose passion, pride and patience, as well as a keen desire to learn from and compete against the best, has enabled Romania to make progress. The 1924 Romanian Olympic team proved that taking part was more important than winning and we are all humble and grateful for their bravery and sacrifices.”
Pompilie Bors, President of the Romanian Rugby Federation, said: “All big projects start with a handful of men, sharing a dream. These men were the players of the 1924 Olympic team and the dream was to play Rugby against the best. The first experience of the international arena was painful as they got badly beaten by the much stronger French and US teams.”
“The dream, however, lived on and was passed from generation to generation to the present day and is still the engine of Romanian Rugby. The temerity of the 1924 pioneers has been rewarded now with the induction into the IRB Hall of Fame, which is a great day for all in Romanian Rugby and of course for the families and friends of those who so nobly and gallantly wore Romania colours for the first time on an international Rugby field.”
This year's theme is 'Rugby - a global Game'
Each year, the IRB Hall of Fame recognises the achievements of individuals and organisations who have made outstanding contributions to the development of the Game worldwide. The theme of this year’s induction is “Rugby – a global Game” and celebrates Rugby’s expansion to become a global sport played by millions of men and women worldwide.
About the IRB Hall of Fame:
The IRB Hall of Fame honours Rugby greats who have enhanced the Game through their exceptional achievements. Players, entire teams, administrators, coaches, referees, members of the media and Rugby personalities are considered based on their outstanding contributions.
The IRB Hall of Fame selection panel, chaired by IRB Chairman Bernard Lapasset, includes Gerald Davies, Nigel Starmer-Smith, Henri Garcia, Don Cameron and Pablo Mamone.