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The Olympics Job Isn't Done Yet

Thursday Aug 13, 2009 in Elite Level Rugby Other International News

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The International Olympic Committee’s executive board voted to recommend the inclusion rugby and golf for the 2016 games (and add women’s boxing by reducing men’s boxing one weight class).

These votes are not done deals. The final vote comes in October when the full IOC membership votes thumbs up or thumbs down on the additions.

“I wouldn't say that the general IOC membership is a harder sell or an easier sell,” said USA Rugby vice chair and resident rugby-in-the-Olympics expert Bob Latham. “It's a different sell. Just by the sheer number of voters (106), there will be many more motivations at work than with the Executive Committee alone (15). But I would hope that they would consider the same factors rugby has going for it that led the IOC Executive Committee to make this recommendation.”

Latham added that the IOC general membership is not expected to just rubber-stamp the recommendations of rugby and golf. That’s why rugby has to keep campaigning.

“The IOC general membership has demonstrated in the past that it doesn't rubber stamp - particularly on this issue,” Latham said.

But on rugby’s side is the new rule that says a sport just needs a majority to be voted in, not two-thirds, and the fact that rugby isn’t a new idea anymore.

“The transparency and clarity of the IOC throughout the process, as well as the thoroughness of its substantive review, I hope would bode well for rugby,” said Latham. “I think many more IOC general members have become familiar with rugby 7s over the last four years and in my mind, of course, to become familiar with it is to fall in love with it.”

So don’t count your chickens before they’re hatched. The final vote in October is crucial, too. However, knowing that rugby isn’t an Olympic sport yet, allow us to speculate a little bit.

What happens to the 7s World Cup? The IRB has already said the Olympics will replace the 7s World Cup. So if rugby 7s plays in the 2016 Olympics, there will still be a 7s World Cup in 2013.

Or … 2012? London hosts the 2012 games and as host city can select some demonstration sports. Couldn’t 7s be one of those? Probably, but to make it the World Cup would be at odds with the Games. We think it will instead be akin to the World Games tournament – a showcase, but not a major event.

Twelve teams. That’s right, 12 teams for men and 12 teams for women over four days. Most likely, then, women play two days and men play two days – not concurrently. That’s a good thing because neither gets short shrift in attention.

Twelve teams means 3 pools of four and then seeding for Cup, Plate and Bowl? Or four pools of three, meaning only four games per team …

Which teams should participate? Based on what we’ve seen lately:
Men: South Africa, New Zealand, Great Britain (remember, England, Scotland and Wales play as a single nation), Fiji, Kenya, Argentina for sure. Of the six other spots, one would go to the hosts (we find that out in October as well), and five others should come from the normal qualification events. So USA or Canada would get a spot, Australia or Samoa, someone from Asia, France or Portugal or Ireland, and maybe one wild card.

Women: Fewer competitive teams so fewer maybes: Australia, New Zealand, Great Britain, USA, Canada, China, France, South Africa, Russia, and then maybe Samoa, Kenya, Uganda, Spain or one or two others.

Surely there will have to be a qualification process.

(Look for a feature in the September issue of Rugby Magazine on the Olympics).

- Alex Goff

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