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The International Olympic Committee announced significant changes Monday. Chief among them were alterations to the bidding process, making it more affordable and flexible to host, as well as an ammendment to the limit of sports within the Olympic program. These were among a 40-point agenda, which saw all recommendations unanimously approved, including a move to eliminate discrimination based on sexual orientation in the wake of controvesy surrounding the Sochi Games.
Of interest to rugby fans is the change to the makeup of the Olympic program, as 7s is only guaranteed a spot in the Olympics through the 2020 Tokyo Games. A 28-sport cap has been replaced by a more flexible one on the number of athletes and events – 10,500 and 310, respectively. Baseball and softball are reportedly the sports knocking loudest on the door for inclusion, and because of their large roster numbers, they'd likely need to replaced by a large team sport with multiple events. Rugby has just the two events, one for men and one for women.
Sports will now lobby to remain in the Games or be added ahead of any decision, which would be made at least three years prior to the Games in question. So if rugby were to be nixed from the program, we'd know by at least 2021.
There has been discussion within the international rugby community about the sport not being safe after Tokyo. Some speculation points to the lack of world rugby stars projected to play in the Games – while Sonny Bill Williams is considering a switch to 7s ahead of Rio, many stars aren't. Another rumored concern with rugby is the amount of injuries, and not concussions, per se, but injuries overall.
United States Olympic Committee director of high performance for team sports John Crowley told Rugby Today he believes rugby is on its way to becoming an Olympic mainstay.
"I think it’s a sport not only due to takeoff, but it will explode in this country," he said, "and I think the IOC will make it part of the Olympic program for the foreseeable future. I see no reason why they wouldn’t."
No sport is safe, and that was punctuated by wrestling's recent fight to stay in the Games. It was set to be axed after Rio but reinstated last fall after months of lobbying and campaigning. Some core issues with the sport were a lack of modernization and inclusion of women, which are two problems rugby doesn't have.
Canadian IOC member Dick Pound indicated a couple of sports he thinks should be considered for dropping. But at this point, it's all speculation. “Synchronized swimming…and maybe triple jump,” he told Reuters. “Everybody has to share the load for the good of the Olympics.”
Julio Maglione, president of the world swimming federation, FINA, said, “I don’t know what will happen, this is the truth, it’s a difficult moment. I suppose that it’s a problem we discuss in the future, we don’t know what’s going to happen with us, athletics, gymnastics.”