London 2012 inspires future Rugby Olympians
International Rugby Board Chairman Bernard Lapasset is confident that the success of the London 2012 Olympic Games will inspire Rugby Sevens players hoping to participate in the world’s largest sporting event in four years’ time.
Rugby Sevens will make its Games debut at Rio 2016 and Lapasset, in London for International Olympic Committee (IOC) planning and preparation meetings and an event to mark the four-year countdown to Rio, believes that there is already palpable excitement within the global Rugby family.
"London is the first Olympic Games since the IOC voted Rugby Sevens onto the summer programme. It is therefore a significant milestone for the IRB and our players around the world as we continue to prepare for our Games debut in Rio de Janeiro."
"In four years' time the world's best men's and women's Sevens players will compete on the biggest sporting stage and rub shoulders with the world's top athletes from other disciplines in the Olympic Village. It is incredibly exciting and for aspiring Olympian Rugby players it will be the realisation of a dream."
"The players and coaches are telling me that they can't wait, that they are proud and honoured by the opportunity they have to showcase our sport to the world."
Pride and history of competing at Olympic Games
For the players, many of whom will be glued to their TV screens around the world cheering on the athletes, these Games are the moment when they start to think ahead and visualise what it will be like in four years’ time.
England women's Sevens player Jo Watmore said: "When you see the athletes competing, the pride and the history, the reality really sinks in. The Olympics is the pinnacle for us in the Sevens game and I can't wait to hopefully experience it for myself in four years as part of Team GB."
Tessa Veldhuis, a former gymnast and star of the Netherlands national women's team which is surging up the rankings, said: "For my team-mates and I, London 2012 represents a landmark. We have been working hard, supported by our National Olympic Committee, to reach the top in Sevens, but the countdown to Rio truly starts here."
England men's captain Rob Vickerman commented: "There is no doubt that the IOC decision to include Sevens in the Olympics has lifted our sport to a new level. We are looking forward to seizing the opportunity and making the Rugby family, the Olympic family and the global sporting community proud of our Olympic Games debut."
Inclusion leads to increase in funding and profile
Portugal's National Technical Director for Sevens Tomaz Morais points to Olympic inclusion as a significant factor in increasing participation in his country: "We now have 28,000 children playing touch Rugby in schools, which is great. We have better-prepared athletes, access to great facilities and are in a position to push forward and challenge for honours."
Kenya stalwart Humphrey Kayange added: "Being in the Olympic Games has opened the way for renewed growth not only in Kenya but across Africa. These are really exciting times for our sport."
Planning and preparation for Rio 2016 is well underway. The IRB is working in partnership with the IOC and the Rio 2016 Organising Committee to deliver a Rugby Sevens event that is good for the Olympics, great for fans and delivers a boost to the development and growth of the sport worldwide.
"Since our admission we have been working hard, not only to ensure successful Rugby Sevens events in 2016 and 2020, but to maximise the opportunity for the good of the sport," said Lapasset.
IRB is delivering on its strategic plan for Sevens
"We have delivered a strategic plan for Sevens, a vision to grow participation and increase competitiveness. We have strengthened our women’s competition structure and we have assisted our Unions in developing partnerships with their respective National Olympic Committees."
"We are already seeing the benefit worldwide for Sevens and for Fifteens. It is the key that has unlocked the door to mass participation in new and emerging markets with increased interest and and more nations challenging for the top honours in Sevens, such as the Netherlands and Brazil in the women’s Game."
IRB Acting Chief Executive Robert Brophy added: "Planning and preparation for our Olympic Games return is on track. We have strong working relationship with the IOC and the Sports Department team and the Rio 2016 Organising Committee and we are jointly focusing on delivering an exceptional Rugby Sevens tournament in four years' time."