AUGUST 10 - JOHN O'NEILL, the chief executive of the Australian Rugby Union, said today that he is confident his sport will be readmitted to the Olympic Games in 2016.
The International Rugby Board (IRB), led by president Bernard Lapasset and secretary general Mike Miller, are lobbying hard for rugby sevens to be included on the Olympic programme.
O'Neill told The Australian in an interview published today: "Vernon Pugh, the ex-chairman of the IRB, was the man who saw the real benefits of rugby being reinstated to the Olympics.
"The campaign faltered with his premature death, but in the last couple of years it has been resurrected by...Mike Miller.
"The IRB entourage is in Beijing.
"There is a level of confidence that there is a reasonable chance rugby will be reinstated for the 2016 Olympics and a real possibility it will be an exhibition sport in 2012.
"The case for reinstatement is pretty compelling.
"Rugby was an Olympic sport from 1900 to 1924."
O'Neill said he would prefer the full 15-a-side sport was introduced but conceded that the sevens version would be a better fit and appeal more to the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
He said: "Sevens has been played in the Commonwealth Games since 1998 and it has been a huge success.
"The Commonwealth Games shows that sevens would fit into the Olympic programme really well.
"It is played right around the world.
"Some countries that don't feature in the 15-a-side game feature in sevens.
"Kenya was marvellous at the Adelaide sevens.
"A real surprise packet.
"The IOC likes to see that a sport is not a closed shop."
IRB officials believe that being admitted into the Olympics could help the sport grow around the world and lead to it receiving a financial benefit.
O'Neill said: "The Olympic Games is the world's biggest sporting event.
"It would give us a seat at the big table.
"It would help to increase rugby's global appeal in countries like the US and Japan.
"It would also provide access to Olympic funding.
"That is not insignificant.
"It would be a real bonus for the sport."
Rugby is one of seven sports hoping to be included on the Olympic programme when the IOC makes a decision at its Session in Copenhagen in October 2009.
To read the full article visit http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,24150135-2722,00.html