Rugby & the Olympics

Kenya Sevens captain Humphrey Kayange was one of the IRB's seven-strong Olympic bid team in 2009

Kenya Sevens captain Humphrey Kayange was one of the IRB’s seven-strong Olympic bid team in 2009


On 9 October 2009 the IOC Session in Copenhagen voted almost unanimously to add Rugby Sevens to the Sporting programme of the summer Olympics, in Rio de Janeiro in 2016.

The IRB is already forging a strong relationship with the Rio 2016 Organising Committee. IRB management travelled to Rio in June for preliminary discussions on event planning and increasing rugby participation in Brazil, where there are already over 30,000 registered rugby players.

The IRB’s own planning is well under way, having started the day Sevens became part of the 2016 and 2020 Olympic Programmes. The IRB enjoys a very strong relationship with the IOC and has held introductory and planning meetings. It is also part of the IOC’s programmes and commissions on betting, player welfare, finance and insurance.

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Since that day in Copenhagen an ‘Olympic Effect’ has already been recognisable to the Game of Rugby, in particular its emerging markets. 2016 provides a unique platform to reach new audiences and fans in 205 Olympic countries.

USA Rugby was recently accepted as a full Olympic Sport member of the US Olympic Committee, a massive step forward, and for first time matches from next year’s Rugby World Cup will be broadcast on US network TV.

Rugby is now being taught as an “Olympic sport” in schools in China, USA and Russia, where the Government has committed to building new Rugby stadia as they build towards hosting the Rugby World Cup Sevens in Moscow in 2013. In Kenya, meanwhile, the Rugby Union has received a commitment from the Kenyan National Olympic Committee to develop men’s and women’s Rugby.

In the wider multisport context, Sevens was once again a key ingredient of the Commonwealth Games in 2010; it will feature in the 2010 Asian Games in Guangzhou and in the 2011 Pan American Games in Guadalajara.

The IRB, through its 117 national member unions, has also built strong relationships with National Olympic Committees, ensuring the Olympic framework is in place in each country to support continued Rugby development.

Olympic qualification

The IRB has undergone a comprehensive review of its global Sevens structure, which helped formulate a draft Sevens Strategic Plan including proposed qualification structures for the 2016 and 2020 Olympic Games. This is currently with the IRB’s Member Unions for further input.

A key part of this is the establishment of sustainable international competition pathways for all the IRB’s member federations.

The IRB will work closely with the IOC on proposals in advance of a qualification structure being approved by IOC, most likely in 2014.

The IRB would like to see representation from all five Olympic continents in Rio in 2016 and will work with the IOC on the best way forward. The IRB is committed to a fair and transparent system, delivering Rugby’s best athletes to Rio 2016

IRB investment

The IRB will invest over £150 million on development programmes over the next 4 years.

It has established a Major Markets Fund to invest specifically in Brazil, Russia, India, China & Mexico with continued High Performance funding in Argentina. Other recent IRB-funded developments are a High Performance Centre in Samoa and new artificial pitch in Tbilisi.