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2016 Rugby Olympics

The Stockholm Games of 1912 did not include rugby, as the Swedes did not play the sport. Oddly, baseball, new to Sweden was included as an exhibition sport, which the USA won 13-3 against a Swedish nine.  Rugby returned to the Olympics in 1920 (USA and France) and again in 1924 (USA, France, Romania). Hardcover book is available about the USA’s two gold medals at www.tryforthegold.com.

In 1925, Courbertin resigned as head of the IOC, and his replacement, Count Baillet-Latour, was not a rugby admirer.  Despite Dutch player support, rugby was not included in the IX Olympiad held in 1928 in the Netherlands. It was also not scheduled in the Los Angeles games of 1932, since there were but a handful of rugby clubs in the US, and the sport had no international support. It appeared again as an unofficial, four-nation tournament before the 1936 Berlin Olympics with teams coming from France, Germany, Italy, and Romania.  

The return of rugby in the Olympics for 2016, albeit in the sevens version, occurred because of years of hard work by the IRB to reinstate the sport into the games.  The appeal to the IOC was partially predicated that, like soccer football, 12-women’s teams would also participate. Judgmentally, an ancillary reason for sevens rugby selection stems from its popularity in Fiji, Samoa, and Tonga, countries with past limited summer Olympics representation. And, Kazakhstan will appear as an entrant for the women.

Yet, there may be another subtle reason why in October 2009, the IOC voted overwhelmingly to include rugby in 2016 (golf, also). The past head of the IOC Jacques Rogge played rugby in Belgium, and IOC voting member, the recently, newly crowned King William IX of the Netherlands, also played rugger at school in Wales. Like the Baron de Courbertin long ago, rugby moves onto the Olympic stage when promoted by its many rugby-playing enthusiasts.

(To understand who may qualify for the 2016 Olympics, the most cogent analysis appears in the “Reader Posts” on the Rugby Today website written by Colin Flora.)