The launch of the 2013 Rugby Sevens World Cup to be held in Moscow was a brief and quite formal event. But it was accompanied by a powerful statement.
Alexander Zhukov, the Russian deputy prime minister and head of the Russian National Olympic Committee, said at the official launch ceremony on Thursday in New Plymouth that he would lobby for the permanent inclusion of the sport at Olympic Games.
“Rugby Sevens will make its debut at the 2016 Olympic Games (in Rio de Janeiro),” Zhukov said. “If I could decide, I would make it a regular Olympic discipline as it is an interesting kind of rugby. Russia will support its permanent inclusion to the Olympic programme.”
He also confirmed that Russia is willing to invest heavily in the future of the sport. About 40,000 people play for Russian rugby clubs, while 16 professional clubs form the country's championship.
“Rugby is becoming more popular in Russia. There is governmental and private support of the sport, and there are more young people who take it up,” Zhukov said.
“Rugby Sevens World Cup 2013 in Moscow will contribute to Russia’s engagement in the world rugby family."
Bernard Lapasset, chairman of the International Rugby Board (IRB), called it “exciting times for rugby.”
“Over the next decade we will see the first Rugby World Cup in Asia when Japan host the tournament in 2019, as well as rugby at Olympic Games 2016 in Rio and 2020,” the Frenchman said.
“There is no doubt rugby can become truly global and we are committed to continuing to invest in the development of the game. One key of the strategy is the hosting of Rugby World Cup Sevens 2013 in Russia.”
The official launch was held a few hours before Russia met USA at New Plymouth's Stadium Taranaki in their debut match at a Rugby World Cup.