August 10 - Australian legends, including Mark Ella (pictured), have urged the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to readmit rugby to the Games when they make a decision later this week.
As the IOC's ruling Executive Board prepares to meet in Berlin this week to recommend two new sports for inclusion from 2016, Wallabies greats have added their weight to the International Rugby Board’s (IRB) bid for Olympic recognition.
Rugby in its traditional 15-a-side form has been a part of the Games on four occasions – in 1900, 1908, 1920 and 1924.
France won the gold medal in 1900, Australia was successful eight years later in London, and the United States enjoyed back to back triumphs in the final two competitions played at the Olympics in Antwerp and Paris.
The IOC Executive Board will consider the merits of sevens rugby, along with six other sports, when it meets from Thursday for two days to weigh up their Games potential.
The Executive Board’s recommendation on two new sports will then go forward for the IOC members consideration at their Session in Copenhagen on October 9.
Ella, a former Wallabies captain capped 25 times and one of the most popular players at the Hong Kong Sevens through the 1980’s, claimed has much to offer the Olympic Movement.
He said: “There has always been a sense of magic about sevens.
"The skill, the pace, the thrills – there is a massive enjoyment factor for players and spectators alike and it would surely fill a main stadium during the first week of an Olympics.
“It is a game which relies on the intuition and natural flair of players, and it’s a game that continues to grow on a global basis.
“One of the greatest outcomes from the IRB Rugby World Cup Sevens in Dubai this year was that eight different nations qualified for the semi-finals across the men’s and women’s competitions.
“Those countries were Wales, Argentina, Kenya, Samoa, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and the USA.
“How many other sports could come up with that sort of diversity and global spread?
“In the semi-finals, where we’re talking gold medals contenders, there was Europe, Africa, North America, South America and Oceania represented.”
Another former Wallabies captain and Australian sevens star, Simon Poidevin, said the Pacific Island nations of Fiji, Samoa and Tonga had never won Olympic gold medals but rugby sevens would give them that chance.
He said: “Sevens is not only highly entertaining, but success is not restricted to the traditional heavyweights of the 15-a-side game.
“The emergence of Kenya over the past couple of seasons is evidence of that, and the Pacific Island nations, led by Fiji, have long been at the forefront of sevens rugby.
“Olympic inclusion would boost the chances of the Pacific Island countries having the chance to stand on an Olympic podium.
"That has to be great for the Olympic Movement, not just for rugby.
“Sevens also attracts multi-cultural audiences around the world.
"You think of Hong Kong over the years and the immense popularity of sevens there.
“The drawing power of major tournaments around the globe also illustrates what desire there is from rugby followers to be there at games to support their national teams.”
Current Australian stars of both the men’s and women’s games have also voiced their enthusiasm for rugby’s Olympic bid.
Berrick Barnes said: “The Olympic Games represents the ultimate in sporting competition, so to have the chance to participate at the Games would be the fulfilment of a dream for rugby players all over the world.
“The opportunity to mix with athletes from other sports and enjoy the common thread of representing our country on the biggest stage in sport would be the experience of a lifetime.”
Teenage Test utility back James O'Connor, who will be 26 when the 2016 Olympics are staged, said: “When you think of excellence in sport, the Olympic Games is the first image you think of.
“To be able to attend an Olympics as a rugby player would be an amazing experience.
“Playing against the Barbarians in London last year [in a celebration match of Australia's victory at the 1908 Olympics] relived an earlier time when Rugby was an Olympic sport, and Australia won gold.
“The possibility that Rugby could once again be played at the Olympics is an exciting prospect.”
Australian women’s sevens captain Cheryl Soon (pictured), who led her country to World Cup glory this year and was also part of the IRB delegation that presented the game’s Olympic case to the IOC in Lausanne in June, said rugby was a perfect fit for the Olympics.
She said: “It’s played by some of the fittest, fastest and most skillful athletes in the world.
“To compete at the Olympics would be a dream come true not just for myself but for everyone playing rugby.
“I know a lot of girls were inspired by our success in Dubai and it has also encouraged them to take up the sport.
“If rugby sevens was included in the Olympics the growth of the sport would definitely surge because people would want to represent their country at the Olympics.
“It is the ultimate and the pinnacle of sport. I have grown up watching the Olympics, and you dream about competing at the Games.”
Team-mate Ruan Sims revealed she had previously dreamt of playing in the Olympics as a basketball player.
She said: “To be an Olympian would be the absolute pinnacle of my sporting career.
"If I could don an Australian jersey and represent my country in an Olympic sport I’d love it.
“I played basketball before I played rugby and I wanted to go to the Olympics.
"Then rugby took over and became my priority.
“If rugby was included in the Olympics, then to be a member of that Australian team in 2016 would be the ultimate.”