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First Stage of Olympics Decision Looms

Tuesday Aug 11, 2009 in Elite Level Rugby Other International News

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We are coming down to the wire for the decision on whether 7s rugby should become an Olympic sport. It’s a crucial time, and depending on who you read or listen to, things look good … or they don’t.

Longtime Olympics report Phil Hersh wrote in the LA Times that the Olympics “should” bring back softball to show how committed they are to women’s sports. Hersh barely acknowledges the existence of rugby in the article, and certainly makes no mention of the fact that women would be playing 7s rugby at the Olympics, too.

Hersh is known for his breadth of knowledge in sports, but apparently rugby is outside his comfort zone.

Or … he knows something we don’t?

Not according to the New York Times. And while the Times has been known to make up a story or two, it does so less in sports. Over the weekend their headline said golf and rugby were on the inside track to be the final two sports considered by the Olympics.

Even that piece gave rugby short-shrift (their readership is more of the golf-playing persuasion perhaps).

Regardless, it comes down, in part, to Thursday. That’s when the IOC will announce the final two sports they will consider adding to the 2016 Games.

Word from within the IRB is that they are very optimistic (why would they say anything else?). But they do have reason to be. Rugby did everything they said they would. They initiated a Women’s 7s World Cup, and that tournament was highly competitive and exciting. They got stars to promise they would show up at the Olympics. And they are getting teams from all over the World to be competitive.

Once those two finalist sports are decided, the next stage will be October 9, when the IOC votes on whether those sports warrant inclusion in the Games. They could vote for both or neither (whether just one could be added hasn’t been decided).

The last time this vote came up, baseball and softball were removed, but, feeling pressured to add rugby, IOC voters decided to add nothing. It was a stark lesson in the politics of the organization, and one worth remembering now.

USA Rugby chimed in Tuesday with a press release to all media discussing rugby’s case.

“From an early age, Americans believe that the greatest success an athlete can achieve is becoming an Olympian and competing in the Olympics,” Caravelli says. “If rugby is included in the Olympics, I believe we will see more athletes taking up rugby who previously played other American sports … [and] I believe the sky is the limit. Our sport would explode on an unforeseen global scale.”

If …

- Alex Goff
(There will be much more on the Olympics decision in the September-October issue of Rugby Magazine)

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