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Digital Subscriptions > Newsweek International > 12th August 2016 > SEVENS HEAVEN

SEVENS HEAVEN

THE INTRODUCTION OF RUGBY SEVENS INTO THE OLYMPICS HAS GIVEN THE TINY NATION OF FIJI ITS FIRST REALISTIC CHANCE OF A MEDAL

ON THE MORNING OF October 9, 2009, 89 members of the International Olympic Committee sat in a conference center in Copenhagen. The committee members, who shape policy at the IOC, had come together in the Danish capital to make a decision about an Olympic Games that was then seven years in the future. Nearly 10,000 miles away, people across the 110 inhabited islands of the Pacific archipelago nation of Fiji, population 900,000, anxiously awaited the committee’s verdict. Would it rule that rugby sevens—regular rugby’s faster, more elegant, more explosive cousin— belonged at the 2016 Rio Olympics?

HEAT IS ON: The Fiji team warmed up for its Olympics debut with a match in London.

The reasons for adding a sport to the Olympics vary: Sometimes a sport is already popular in the host country; sometimes a sport is just catching on but has potential for worldwide growth; sometimes its lobbyists are particularly persuasive. Rugby sevens, its supporters and advocates knew, was growing in popularity in Brazil and Latin America, and its worldwide television audience was also on the rise. They also knew Jacques Rogge, then the IOC president, was a former Belgian international rugby player and a fan of the game. They figured it had a good shot.

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Rio de Janeiro is hosting the Summer Olympics and Paralympics at a difficult time in Brazil’s history. The carnival city is about to give the country something to smile about...
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