- Sevens stars set to shine as rugby returns
- Olympic opportunity drives global growth
- Game-changing Rio 2016 anticipated
Rugby's first Olympians in 92 years are ready to take their place in history at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games and World Rugby Chairman Bill Beaumont believes the stars of sevens will shine brightly to inspire a new generation of players and fans.
"The waiting is over, the preparation complete and it is now time for our top men's and women's sevens players to take centre stage, " said Beaumont, elected earlier this year.
"This is their moment to shine, to enjoy and inspire. Their passion and commitment to reach the pinnacle of their discipline and proudly represent their nation and rugby on sport's biggest stage will be rewarded with what I fully anticipate being spectacular, game-changing Olympic rugby sevens events.
It has been a long journey back to the Games for rugby. Setting aside that the last appearance was in 1924 (USA are the reigning champions), it has been seven incredible years since the IOC voted the sport back on to the programme, but Beaumont believes the build-up has enabled rugby to maximise the opportunity and put legacy first.
Since inclusion, rugby has become truly global. Women's rugby participation in particular has grown from 10 per cent of the population to over 30 per cent, while rugby has received significant NOC and government support as more than one million children have tried, played and stayed in the sport as a result of Get Into Rugby mass participation programmes in schools and sports clubs.
"The Olympic Games halo effect started the moment we were voted back on to the programme in 2009. Our national member unions have embraced the Olympic opportunity and participation has doubled to 7.73 million, with dramatic growth in new and emerging rugby nations. In short it has been a game-changer, enhancing our vision of a sport for all.
Beaumont is also impressed with how the preparations gathered momentum this year to deliver the 15,000-seater Deodoro Stadium, a venue with performance and fan-engagement at heart.
"We are honoured to be a new discipline in the summer Olympic Games. We kick-off on day one and we collectively have a massive opportunity to inspire a new generation of male and female rugby players and fans to participate and have fun.
"I am excited about Rio 2016. Our players are telling us they are excited, we have a superb venue and a great team, including passionate volunteers, and I have no doubt they will be spectacular events for the players, fans, Rio and rugby."
And on the eve of rugby's return, Beaumont is anticipating compelling and highly-competitive sevens tournaments that will deliver excitement, dynamic action and tries, lots of tries.
"After seven years, the Olympic Games baton has now been passed from the IOC, World Rugby and the organisers to the men and women selected to represent rugby at Rio 2016. We know that they will do themselves, their families, their nations, rugby and the Olympic family proud."