World Rugby Chairman Bill Beaumont has hailed rugby’s return to the Olympic Games after compelling, highly-competitive, dramatic and historic rugby sevens competitions.
Australia’s women and Fiji were awarded rugby’s first gold medals in 92 years as rugby captured the imagination of sports fans in Brazil and around the world, lighting-up social media in what was the most socially-engaged rugby sevens event ever.
Fiji also created Olympic Games history by winning their nation’s first Olympic Games medal, an achievement that is being widely celebrated in a nation that is rugby-mad.
Beaumont said: “It has been an honour to be back on sport’s greatest stage and we are incredibly proud of our superb men’s and women’s players. Over six exciting days of rugby, they have showcased the very best of our sport and its character-building values, demonstrating why we believe it is a perfect fit for the Olympic Games.
“Olympic inclusion has been a game-changer for our sport, inspiring a new generation of players and fans. Since being voted back on to the programme in 2009, we have seen participation double to 7.73 million and we are determined to maximise the Rio 2016 halo effect. Our national unions are embracing the Olympic opportunity and we will continue to encourage children to try, play and stay in the game through our mass participation Get Into Rugby programmes in schools and sports clubs.”
The exceptional competitions featured fast-paced, high quality rugby played in a typically carnival atmosphere. The women’s tournament saw an outstanding final that pitted the top two ranked teams in the world against each other in a match of enormous intensity, drama and skill. In the men’s event, fans enjoyed the biggest upset in sevens history as Japan defeated world champions New Zealand, followed by semi-finals that featured representatives from four continents before a pulsating final that saw Fiji make history in winning their nation’s first Olympic medal of any colour with gold.
Beaumont continued: “Australia and Fiji thoroughly deserve to take their places in history as rugby’s first gold medal winners since 1924. I would like to congratulate them and all our Olympians who have inspired a new generation and made their families, nations and sport very proud.”
The road to Tokyo 2020 will begin later this year for the world’s top men’s and women’s teams at the Dubai opener of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series.