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Why isn't rugby an Olympic sport?
Posted by Lachlan Garrison

Introduction: The Curious Case of Rugby and the Olympics

As a passionate rugby fan, I've often wondered why rugby isn't an Olympic sport. After all, it's a thrilling, fast-paced, and physically demanding game that showcases the best of teamwork, skill, and athleticism. So, why isn't rugby given the same international recognition as other sports in the Olympic Games? In this article, I will explore the various reasons behind this puzzling omission and discuss the potential for rugby's inclusion in future Olympic events.

The History of Rugby and the Olympics

Rugby's relationship with the Olympics dates back to the early 20th century. The sport made its Olympic debut in the 1900 Paris Games and was featured in four Olympic tournaments up until 1924. However, rugby's Olympic journey came to an abrupt halt after the 1924 Games, primarily due to disputes between the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the international rugby governing body (now known as World Rugby).

Another key factor in rugby's exclusion from the Olympics was the lack of global representation in the sport back then. During the early 1900s, rugby was predominantly played in a few European countries and the British colonies, which made it difficult for the IOC to justify its inclusion as an Olympic sport. However, this has changed significantly over the years, with rugby now boasting a global following and a diverse range of participating nations.

Rugby Sevens: A Step Towards Olympic Glory

Recognizing the need to adapt and evolve, World Rugby devised a shorter, more dynamic version of the game called Rugby Sevens. With only seven players on each team and games lasting just 14 minutes, Rugby Sevens is an exciting, fast-paced spectacle that has captured the imagination of fans worldwide. This format was seen as a more suitable candidate for the Olympics due to its compact nature and ability to fit into the tight Olympic schedule.

After years of lobbying and negotiations, Rugby Sevens finally made its Olympic debut at the 2016 Rio Games. The event was a resounding success, with both the men's and women's tournaments receiving widespread acclaim for their high levels of skill, athleticism, and competitiveness. The inclusion of Rugby Sevens in the Olympics has undoubtedly increased the sport's global profile and has sparked renewed interest in the traditional 15-a-side game.

Challenges of Including Rugby Union in the Olympics

While the successful introduction of Rugby Sevens has been a significant milestone, many fans still long to see the original 15-a-side Rugby Union included in the Olympics. However, there are several challenges that make this prospect difficult:

  1. Scheduling conflicts: The Olympic Games typically take place in August, which clashes with the traditional rugby season in the southern hemisphere. This would require a significant overhaul of the global rugby calendar and could lead to conflicts with other major rugby events such as the Rugby World Cup.
  2. Player workload: Rugby is an intensely physical sport, and the already demanding schedule for professional players could be further exacerbated by the addition of an Olympic tournament. Player welfare concerns would need to be addressed to ensure the quality and integrity of the competition.
  3. Competition format: The 15-a-side game has a significantly longer match duration and requires a larger squad of players. This would make it challenging to fit a Rugby Union tournament into the tight Olympic schedule without compromising the quality of the competition.

Future Prospects for Rugby in the Olympics

Despite the challenges, there is still hope for Rugby Union fans who dream of seeing their beloved sport take center stage at the Olympics. The continued growth of Rugby Sevens and the increasing global popularity of the sport may pave the way for the eventual inclusion of Rugby Union in the Games. Additionally, the IOC has shown a willingness to adapt and evolve the Olympic program, as evidenced by the introduction of new sports such as skateboarding, surfing, and climbing in recent years.

Furthermore, the successful inclusion of Rugby Sevens could serve as a blueprint for Rugby Union's eventual return to the Olympic stage. By demonstrating the sport's ability to capture the imagination of fans and deliver a high-quality, entertaining spectacle, Rugby Sevens has undoubtedly strengthened the case for Rugby Union's inclusion in future Olympic events.

Conclusion: Rugby's Olympic Dream Lives On

While Rugby Union may not currently be an Olympic sport, the success of Rugby Sevens in the Games has given fans hope for the future. The sport has come a long way since its early Olympic appearances in the 20th century, and its continued growth and global appeal make it a strong contender for inclusion in future Olympic events. As a rugby fan, I remain optimistic that one day we will see the best 15-a-side teams in the world competing for Olympic glory, showcasing the thrilling, skillful, and athletic game that we all love.