Rugby at the Olympics

Pierre de Coubertin admired the spirit and values of rugby union and introduced rugby in its traditional 15-man format for the Paris 1900 Games. It also appeared in the Games of London 1908, Antwerp 1920 and Paris 1924.

Even though rugby union sold more tickets than athletics in 1924, the IOC cancelled rugby as an Olympic sport and turned down the request to stage rugby at the 1928 Amsterdam Games. Three factors were believed to be behind this: the IOC wanted more emphasis on individual sports; women's athletics had increased the number of competitors; and the sport did not receive the backing that it should have from the British entries.

At the 2009 IOC Session in Copenhagen, rugby sevens was elected to join the 2016 program by a vote of 81 members to 8 after nearly a century off the Olympic program. The sevens concept was an attractive option for Olympic competition due to its speed, excitement and the number of countries competing around the world.

The readmission of rugby to the Olympic program was led by Australian women’s rugby sevens captain, Cheryl Soon and New Zealand’s Jonah Lomu. These athletes achieved a remarkable result for rugby- guaranteeing the growth of women’s rugby, giving nations such as Fiji, Samoa, Kenya, and Argentina the chance to win an Olympic medal, and involve passionate young supporters in the Olympic movement.

The Road to Rio

On 9 October 2009 the IOC Session in Copenhagen voted almost unanimously to add Rugby Sevens to the Sporting programme of the summer Olympics, in Rio de Janeiro in 2016.

The IRB is already forging a strong relationship with the Rio 2016 Organising Committee. IRB management travelled to Rio in June for preliminary discussions on event planning and increasing rugby participation in Brazil, where there are already over 30,000 registered rugby players.

The IRB's own planning is well under way, having started the day Sevens became part of the 2016 and 2020 Olympic Programmes. The IRB enjoys a very strong relationship with the IOC and has held introductory and planning meetings. It is also part of the IOC's programmes and commissions on betting, player welfare, finance and insurance.

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