It’s not well known that rugby has been on the Olympic program on four occasions — in Paris in 1900, London in 1908, Antwerp in 1920 and Paris in 1924, with the US being the reigning Olympic Champions.
In 1900 in Paris three teams — France, Germany and Britain — entered. France took the gold medal beating Germany 27-17. Germany took the silver beating Britain 27-8 in the only other game, with the Brits awarded the bronze.
In London 1908 there were only two teams, Britain and Australia. In the only match, a straight final, Australia won 32-3.
In 1920 in Antwerp there were again only two teams, the USA and France. The USA had an unexpected 8-0 win in the only match.
Paris in 1924 saw three teams, France, USA, and Romania, enter. Both France and the USA beat Romania in a type of round robin and then played each other in a final at Colombes Stadium, Paris. The USA won the gold with a 17-3 victory in front of a crowd of 30,000.
It seems the USA victory was not popular in France. The American anthem was jeered and the match is reported to have ended in an uproar when a walking-stick brandishing French fan attacked one of the American reserves.
At the Amsterdam games in 1928 the International Olympic Committee turned down a request to include rugby. The reasons thought to be behind the decision were that the IOC sought more emphasis on individual sports; that women’s events had increased the number of competitors; and that the sport didn’t receive the backing expected from the British entries.
In 1980 the Soviet Union, and in 1988 South Korea, attempted to have rugby reinstated as an Olympic sport, with the 1988 attempt nearly achieving success.
While it would be logistically difficult to hold a full fifteen-a-side rugby competition in conjunction with the Olympics, the popularity of Sevens rugby at the Commonwealth Games has been such that a Sevens competition at the Olympics would surely be a worthwhile addition to the program.
Tomorrow, the Olympic torch will set alight again in Beijing for 17 days, and again, there won’t be any Rugby event in this tournament. But, what saddened me most is when the IOC decided not to have Rugby in the 2012 Olympics in London.
Rugby World Cup is now the 3rd most watched Sporting event and the 2nd most watched single sporting event in the World, but yet, IOC still refuse to include rugby in. I wonder why? Is it because the Great US of A (they were the defending Champions, mind you!), Russia, China and the other big nation has no chance winning a medal? Or is it because England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales need to play as team Great Britain? Only they have the answer!
Until then … I’ll just have to put Synchronize Swimming as my MUST watch event …