South America’s top women’s sevens stars will be in action as the Deodoro Olympic Park plays host to the official rugby sevens test event for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games on 5 and 6 March.
Rugby will make its Olympic Games return at the Rio 2016 Games between 6 and 11 August after an absence of 92 years and the test event will provide the people of Rio with a preview of the fan-favourite sport of rugby sevens with its winning blend of compelling, competitive action and festival atmosphere.
At the Aquece Río (‘Rio Warms Up’) test event, hosts and favourites Brazil will be joined by Colombia (who have also qualified for Rio 2016), Argentina and Venezuela, who will compete in the Rio 2016 repechage event in Dublin in June for the remaining place at the Games, and Uruguay, Chile, Paraguay and Peru.
World Rugby Chairman Bernard Lapasset said: “We are excited about rugby sevens’ debut at what promises to be a spectacular Rio 2016 Olympic Games and the opportunity to reach and inspire new audiences around the world through participation on sport’s biggest stage.
“Rugby sevens’ winning blend of high-octane action, close competition and entertainment is proving a hit with young audiences, broadcasters and commercial partners and I am confident that Rio will love sevens. This is why we believe rugby sevens will be great for the Olympics, great for Brazil and great for rugby.
“The test event is a special and important milestone on our road to Rio 2016 and provides the Rio 2016 organisers and World Rugby with an invaluable programme of testing from volunteers to venue operations, will be the first international rugby event to be hosted at the Deodoro Olympic Park.”
Rugby Americas President and World Rugby Sevens Strategy Group Chairman Agustín Pichot added: “It is a great honour for the South America region to be given the opportunity to send its best teams to the official Rio 2016 test event. While two participating teams have already confirmed their place at Rio 2016, and Argentina and Venezuela are still in the race for a place via the final repechage tournament in June, the Aquece Río competition will be a great opportunity for the players to feel the Olympic vibe and further motivate them to achieve success on the Olympic Games stage this year or in the future.”
Rio 2016 Sports Director Rodrigo Garcia added: “There has been a lot of hard work over the last 12 months to ensure that when rugby returns to the Games this year it has a huge impact, not only for the local Brazilian community but around the world, too. The Deodoro Olympic Park will provide an exciting venue with a vibrant atmosphere for rugby, in close proximity to a number of other Olympic sports.”
Brazil international sevens player Paula Ishibashi is excited about being a part of Olympic Games preparations. She said: “To be able to play in and familiarise ourselves with the new stadium, the changing rooms and all the different functional areas ahead of the Olympic Games is important and exciting.
“There is real energy and excitement in Rio about the Games and rugby sevens as a new sport and as a Brazilian, this is an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to showcase our wonderful sport of rugby to the people of Brazil and around the world – it is a privilege. Our goal is to win a medal at the Games and we are working to play the best rugby of our lives.”
Rugby is one of the fastest-growing team sports in Brazil and, with more than 100,000 children having been introduced to rugby in the country in 2015 through Get Into Rugby, the Brazilian Rugby Union and World Rugby are committed to ensuring that Rio 2016 provides a platform to inspire and engage new participants and audiences.
In December, more than 500 children, selected from social rugby projects across Rio competed in the largest-ever beach rugby festival at Ipanema, running alongside the international beach rugby competition won by Brazil (women) and Argentina (men).
Rugby sevens follows hockey, mountain bike, BMX, canoe slalom and equestrian in staging test events in what promises to be a fan-favourite Deordoro Olympic Park during Rio 2016.