While their Tokyo 2020 Olympic dreams have been temporarily put on hold until 2021, rugby sevens players around the globe have been showing their support for the International Olympic Committee’s #StayStrong campaign on social media.
Launched to mark the International Day of Sport for Development and Peace (IDSDP) on 6 April, the campaign involves athletes connecting with the wider community during this uncertain time to serve as sources of inspiration and hope by encouraging everyone to #stayhealthy, #stayactive and #staystrong at a time when the world is facing an unprecedented health crisis, and when people are being asked to stay at home to contain the spread of COVID-19.
It is proven that physical activity improves mental health, helps beat negative thoughts, lowers stress and depression, and strengthens the immune system and many players have shared unique and creative ways to keep active during this period.
Joining athletes from other sports in a show of solidarity across the Olympic Movement, some of rugby sevens’ biggest stars have been getting behind the campaign, including England captain Tom Mitchell who led Team GB to Olympic silver in Rio, New Zealand’s double Rugby World Cup Sevens winner and Olympic silver medallist Tyla Nathan-Wong and France captain Jean-Pascal Barraque.
Rugby returned to the Olympic programme at the Rio 2016 Games when the sevens format provided a captivating showcase for the game that saw its fan-base increase by almost 17 million in six key territories, with Tokyo 2020 expected to unearth an estimated 30 million new fans worldwide.
The high-octane spectacle that is rugby sevens is expected to be a hot ticket at the Games in Tokyo, which have been rescheduled to 23 July-8 August, 2021, following the huge success of Rugby World Cup 2019 in Japan, which was a catalyst for national pride growth in Japan, capturing the imagination, growing rugby interest and leaving a positive legacy for the sport, according to the latest research.