Sevens chases Olympic dream

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Rugby Sevens is one of seven sports currently under consideration by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) for possible inclusion in the 2016 Olympic Games.

Rugby Sevens, along with golf, karate, squash, roller sports, baseball and softball, is vying for the maximum two available places that will be announced in October 2009 in Copenhagen, Denmark when the 2016 host city will also be unveiled. For the International Rugby Board (IRB) and chairman Bernard Lapasset, Olympic reinclusion is a key strategic goal. As former vice chairman of France's Olympic Committee for more than 20 years, Lapasset is a firm believer that Rugby Sevens has all the attributes to enhance the spectacle and success of the world's most famous sporting event. "The IRB believes that Rugby Sevens is a perfect fit for the Olympic Games, " said Lapasset. "More than 80 years on from its last Olympic outing, rugby still promotes its core values of fair play and friendship, respect and sportsmanship–important values that helped inspire the modern Olympic Movement. " According to a press release published on IRB. com, rugby transcends geographical boundaries to bring people together, has the potential for further global growth and is uniquely placed to help meet the ambitions of the IOC to reach a new young audience worldwide. The IRB is determined to keep driving rugby forwards, to embrace new territories and reach out to new players and audiences. Rugby Sevens is key to that goal and has proven to be incredibly popular and successful in multisport events, with the World Games and Commonwealth Games providing the platform for rugby to reach out to new followers around the world. "Rugby's reintroduction would be beneficial for both the Olympic Movement and for Rugby. Rugby Sevens is already a proven success in multisport events such as the Commonwealth Games, Asian Games and World Games and will be included in the Pan–American Games and All Africa Games in the coming years, " said Lapasset. Rugby is an exciting sport to watch, it has a passionate and youthful following – particularly evident in Rugby Sevens – and a massive travelling fan base which would deliver full stadia and a vibrant atmosphere during the Games. "Rugby Sevens is explosive and fast, played by our quickest and fittest athletes, all of whom support re–inclusion in the Games and would feel privileged to be a part of the world's sporting family, competing alongside so many top athletes, " said Lapasset. The inclusion of rugby's biggest names is a mouth–watering prospect. For Bryan Habana, a Rugby World Cup winner with South Africa, former IRB Player of the Year and a key part of Lapasset's presentation team to the IOC Programme Commission in October 2008, the chance to compete in an Olympic Games is an incredibly exciting prospect. " I have spoken with my fellow top players and each agrees that competing at the Olympic Games would be an amazing experience. We would all be there and would be proud to call ourselves 'Olympians', " said Habana. Sevens also offers medal potential for smaller nations, bringing a new Olympic dream alive for many of them and inspiring the next generation of rugby stars. Fiji, reigning World Cup Sevens champion, has never won an Olympic medal, nor has Samoa. In a Women's competition, Kazakhstan, Thailand and Brazil could all challenge. Rugby is currently played by over 3m registered players in 116 countries. The IRB wants to see that number grow and is therefore investing more than $300m in development programmes over the next four years. Being part of the Games would help to support that growth. Looking ahead, 2009 will be crucial for Rugby's Olympic ambitions. In June the IRB will present to the IOC Executive Committee, outlining Rugby Sevens' compelling case for Olympic inclusion, before the announcement is made in October as to which sport or sports will be added to the sporting programme for the 2016 Games. "We hope that rugby, its players, spectators and commercial partners, might play an integral part in the continued success and global growth of the Olympic movement, " added Lapasset. Other sports and games also keen to be included in future Olympic Games but that are not being considered in the current rounds of voting include Chess, Darts and Poker.

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