April 16 - Rugby sevens hopes of being admitted to the Olympic programme for the 2016 Games have been boosted by record television figures at the World Cup in Dubai last month.
The tournament, which was the first to incorporate a 16-team women’s event running alongside the men’s competition, was broadcast to 760 million people in 141 countries through 29 international broadcasters in 19 languages, the International Rugby Board (IRB) announced.
The figures, released by the IRB’s broadcast partners ProActive Television, also show that coverage of the world’s premier men’s and women’s sevens tournament has increased exponentially with 827 hours screened over the three days of competition, up 141 per cent on the figure for the 2005 event in Hong Kong.
Live coverage of the tournament also saw an increase with 379 hours screened, up from 222 hours in 2005.
Bernard Lapasset, the president of the IRB, said: “Rugby World Cup Sevens 2009 in Dubai was a resounding success.
"Its winning formula of exciting, explosive action, competitive matches, world class men’s and women’s players and plenty of spectacular tries was a major hit with broadcasters the world over and has proven highly successful in reaching out to new audiences."
Wales won the men’s competition for the first time, while Australia lifted the inaugural women’s competition in an event that attracted 80,000 spectators over the three days that it was held.
Lapasset said: “The [televison] figures clearly show that while sevens continues to grow in traditional markets such as Europe and Oceania, there has been significant growth across emerging markets such as North and South America, Asia and Africa where live coverage of the tournament was more than double that of 2005 levels.
“Today’s announcement is another positive step for us and highlights a global enthusiasm for Rugby Sevens at a time when the Game is reaching out for Olympic Games inclusion and illustrating to the Olympic Family its remarkable following around the world."
"The previous television broadcast record was set at the 2005 tournament in Hong Kong where the event was broadcast to 300 million homes worldwide, in 125 countries through 20 international broadcasters.
Rugby sevens is one of seven sports bidding to be included in the 2016 Olympics.
The others are baseball, golf, karate, roller sports, softball and squash.
The International Olympic Committee's (IOC) ruling Executive Board are due to make a recommendation at its meeting in Berlin on August 13 about which two sports should be chosen.
The final decision will be made during the IOC's Session in Copenhagen, which starts on October 2 when the city to host the 2016 Games will also be chosen.