Rugby leaders eager to get a foot in Olympic door

World rugby leaders are eagerly watching this week’s

International Olympic Committee Congress here to discover if they will finally get themselves into the Olympic Games.

Three sports risk being axed—softball, baseball and modern pentathlon—and a decision to remove one or all of them could be taken here this week by the IOC’s rank and file. It only needs a simple majority of the 120-odd members expected here.

The IOC’s programme commission has put forward golf and rugby to be added to the Olympics but no addition can be made until a sport has been excluded.

IOC president Jacques Rogge, a former Belgian rugby

international, has made it clear that the 28 sports that make up the summer Olympics will not be increased and that if a new sport is to be added to the programme then one of the current Olympic

sports must go.

Rugby officials and players are eager to see rugby, even if it would only be sevens and not 15-a-side, become an Olympic sport.

“It would be great for the sport,” enthused Australian rugby great Michael Lynagh. “It would generate more money and give the sport a higher worldwide profile.

“I think any player in the world would love to win an Olympic gold.”

French rugby president Bernard Lapasset, a close friend of Rogge, is equally enthusiatic.

“To have rugby in the Olympics would be a great boost for the sport.
By having sevens it would give many of the smaller nations a chance and it would generate money money to develop the sport ever further,” said Lapasset.

He was supported by French team manager Jo Maso.

“It would be brilliant as it would show a lot of the world that it is possible to play sport with an oval ball.

“It is, as was seen when they took sevens to Hong Kong and the Commonwealth Games, capable of capturing a huge audience and spreading the appeal of the sport.

“It also gives the smaller nations, who can’t put up a XV a side team the chance to cause an upset to the so-called world order and that in any sense of the word is always a good thing,” he said.

But rugby faces a major battle ahead if it is to get into the Olympic programme and the millions of extra dollars that would mean.

Softball, baseball and modern pentathlon have been waging a bitter battle to remain in the games and seven of the IOC’s biggest sponsors have come to their aide. The decision to expel any of them is likely to deferred to the IOC Congress in Prague next July but IOC sources say that it is possible that modern pentathlon could find itself outside the Games

come next July.

Although modern pentathlon was created specifically for the Games by modern Olympic founder Pierre de Coubertin, Rogge recently admitted that tradition may not be enough to save it.

“Tradition is one dimension. The other thing is that this sport which is not so popular is blocking the way for sports that are more popular. We will have to weigh the two things—tradition and opening up the Games to popular sports,” said the IOC president. - Sapa-AFP

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