(ATR) Rugby is fully dedicated to becoming a core event within the Olympic program, according to World Rugby chairman Bill Beaumont.
In his keynote speech at the opening of the World Rugby Conference at London’s Hilton Metropole, Beaumont praised the "game-changing" rugby sevens event at the Rio 2016 Olympics and outlined his hopes for the future for the sport following a record breaking World Cup in England last year.
Rugby was selected, along with golf, to be a part of the Olympic program for 2016 and 2020 seven years ago in Copenhagen. But Beaumont hopes that with the positive reaction garnered in Rio, especially by IOC members he mentioned, rugby sevens can remain a part of the Olympic realm for many years to come.
"We enjoyed a game-changing Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro where our finest men and women sevens players became our sport's first Olympians in 92 years," Beaumont said. "Australia's gold medal achievement demonstrated the true strength of the women's game.
"We brought a great deal to the Olympics and look forward hopefully to becoming a core event within the Olympic program."
He added: "It was a great event, thoroughly enjoyed by everybody."
Beaumont, who succeeded Frenchman Bernard Lapasset as World Rugby’s chief in May of this year, said that the success of Rio had brought "16.83 million new fans" in six "key markets", according to a Nielsen study to be published later this year.
The new markets include the USA, who will, along with Georgia and Romania become full members of the World Rugby council.
"The sport is now played in 121 World Rugby national member unions while a further 60 unions are recognized," Beaumont said. "Our global footprint continues to grow at a record pace.
"Now, we have eight million players worldwide, a number doubled since rugby was voted on to the Olympic program seven years ago and women's rugby represents 60 percent of that total."
The rugby competition at Deodoro Stadium witnessed Olympic history when Fiji won the gold medal in the men’s event, the first medal of any kind for the Pacific country.
The World Rugby conference follows on from the World Rugby awards held in the same venue on Sunday evening.
World champions New Zealand swept the board by picking up Team of the Year award, Steve Hansen winning Coach of the Year award, and All Blacks fly-half Beauden Barrett claiming Player of the Year Award.
Written by Christian Radnedgein London
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