POSTED: August 13th 2009

Rugby sevens first past the post in securing 2016 vote chance

Rob Andrew: English rugby welcome /
Rob Andrew: English rugby welcome /

KEIR RADNEDGE / Sports Features Communications

BERLIN: A magnificent initial campaign swept rugby through into the final, Copenhagen stage of the bid to reach the Olympic Games in 2016.

Bernard Lapasset, president of the International Rugby Board, and chief executive Mike Miller were happy men in Berlin after their sport's strong showing in voting among the executive board of the International Olympic Committee.

But they remain aware that this is a historic opportunity - to bring rugby back into the Olympic fold for the first time since 1924 - which they dare not let slip. The last hurdle is to obtain an indiviual majority vote from the full IOC in October.

Voting for the two sports being proposed by the executive to the IOC was staged in two rounds. Rugby won the first slot after only two rounds of voting. An absolute majority of eight of the 14 members was required and rugby obtained seven in the first round then nine in the second, from which first-round failure roller sports (no votes) was excluded.

Lapasset said: "Now we are winners but also not winners. We have to think to the next step in little more than a month. I want to thank all our member rugby unions who have supported us and worked with us all the way so far.

"We now all need to redouble our efforts and in particular all our unions need to ensure that not only any of their IOC members but also their own national Olympic committees are aware of what is needed."

Miller, asked how the sport had made such an impression thus far, responded that this was due to the youthful, competitive nature of the sevens version of the sport which - if voted into the Games - would offer medal-winning opportunities for countries which might not normally dream of the seeing gold, silver or bronze.

Persuasive words

Rugby union's qualified success in Berlin underlined how successfully Lapasset and Miller have been in persuading the rest of sport about the worldwide appeal of a sport often considered as focused narrowly between Australia, New Zealand and South Africa in the southern hemisphere and the Six Nations rivals (England, France, Ireland, Italy, Scotland and Wales) in the north.

Welcoming the Berlin vote Rob Andrew, elite rugby director at the English RFU, said: "Rugby union is played in more than 100 countries and would have a superb opportunity to further develop and grow through a partnership with the IOC. This would be a massive boost for the sport, which will raise its profile, encourage more and more people to play and watch the game at all levels not only in England but worldwide."

Similar appreciation for the opportunity beckoning was expressed by Roger Lewis, chief executive of the Welsh Rugby Union.

Lewis said: "The lure of winning an Olympic medal will inspire participation in sevens and 15-a-side rugby at all levels. Here in Wales we are currently World Cup sevens champions and I know we have the players to compete for inclusion in any team selected to represent the United Kingdom."

British rugby officials, with the tradition of the British Lions on which to lean, do not anticipate any of the parochial problems experienced by association football in fielding a 'Great Britain' team at the Olympics.

Keywords · IOC · International Olympic Committee · Copenhagen · rugby union · sevens · Lapasset · Mike Miller · executive board

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