The opening ceremony of the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro will officially break a 92-year drought for Rugby as Olympics sport.
Rugby last took part in the 1924 Paris Olympics in its 15s format when the French dispatched the newcomers from Eastern Europe, Romania, by a record margin of 61 points to 3 scoring a record 13 tries in the process.
On the following Sunday, May 11, the US team comprehensively defeated Romania, at Stade Colombes, though the Romanians defended gamely and managed to limit the score to 39-0, with the Americans scoring only eight tries. T
The 1924 Olympic final was played at the Stade Colombes in Paris on May 18, before a strongly partisan crowd of about 50,000. The Americans surprised their hosts and the crowd with their pace, skill and tackling and won 17-3 scoring five tries to France’s solitary effort.
Rugby was brought into the Olympics by Baron Pierre de Coubertin, the founder of the modern Olympic movement.
De Coubertin admired the ethos of the Game, its moral values as well as the physical and mental skills required to play it. His active interest in Football Rugby was reflected in a famous essay called Notes about Foot-ball, which he wrote in 1896:
“What is admirable in football (rugby), is the perpetual mix of individualism and discipline, the necessity for each man to think, anticipate, take a decision and at the same time subordinate one’s reasoning, thoughts and decisions to those of the captain. And even the referee’s whistle stopping a player for a ‘fault’ one team mate has made and he hasn’t seen, tests his character and patience. For all that, foot-ball is truly the reflection of life, a lesson experimenting in the real world, a first-rate educational tool.”
In 1925, Baron de Coubertin stepped down as the President of the IOC and his successor, Count Baillet-Latour, did not share the enthusiasm of the founder for Rugby Football. The 1925 Olympic Congress, at which Baillet-Latour was elected as the second IOC President, signalled the beginning of a drive against team sports and despite the vigorous protestations of the Dutch students keen to have Rugby in the programme of the 9th Olympic Games in Amsterdam, Rugby was dropped from the Olympic programme.
The previous World Rugby Chairman, Bernard Lapasset of France, made the readmission of rugby into the sporting programme of the Olympic Games one of his top priorities. Following a concerted campaign by World Rugby, Member Unions, Regional Associations and the global Rugby family, Rugby made the shortlist of potential sports for inclusion on the Summer Olympic Sports Programme.
At the 121st IOC Session in Copenhagen in October 2009, IOC members voted overwhelmingly in favour of Rugby Sevens inclusion on the Olympic Games Sports Programme for 2016 and 2020, 81 votes in favour with only eight against.
This historic achievement meant that the world’s top Men’s and Women’s Rugby players would now have the opportunity to compete for an Olympic Gold medal, the pinnacle of sporting achievement.
Rugby Sevens has become increasingly popular around the world and is played at major Regional and Multi-Sport competitions including the Pan American Games, Asian Games, Pacific Games, Commonwealth Games, World Games, Universiade and, from 2015, the All African Games.
World Rugby strongly believes that Rugby Sevens will add value to the Olympic Games by attracting an engaged international audience, young and old, to a globally popular sport which embodies the Olympic ideals of friendship and fair play. The aspirations of the Rugby family to realise the original dream of the founder of the modern Olympics are set to be fulfilled.
According to the President of the Ghana Rugby Football Union (GRFU), Mr Herbert Mensah, Rugby’s inclusion in the 2016 Summer Olympics (Rio 2016) is a very important milestone for Rugby globally and indeed for Rugby in Ghana.
“My administration is in the process of finalising a four-year strategic plan for Rugby in Ghana and Rugby Sevens will play a very important driving force in the growth and development of Rugby in Ghana. The dream will always be to take the Ghana Eagles, our National Rugby Team, to the Olympics to fly the Ghana flag high,” he said.
By Ghana Rugby with acknowledgement to contributions from World Rugby.