Rugby News & Views From an American Perspective
Rugby Sevens took center 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.”