Lomu backs Rugby's Olympic campaign

(IRB.COM) Tuesday 17 March 2009
 Lomu backs Rugby's Olympic campaign
Jonah Lomu (right) and Lawrence Dallaglio showed their support for Rugby's inclusion in the Olympics during RWC Sevens in Dubai Photo: Zoomfiji

Jonah Lomu has become the latest international Rugby star to throw his weight behind Rugby’s campaign for Olympic Games re-inclusion.

The former New Zealand Fifteens and Sevens star was in Dubai last week to watch Rugby World Cup Sevens 2009 and he follows Lawrence Dallaglio, Bryan Habana, Agustin Pichot and Anastassiya Khamova in expressing his belief that Sevens’ attractive brand of high-paced action, festival atmosphere and massive global appeal is the perfect fit for the Games.

“It would be fantastic for Rugby and fantastic for the Games,” said the winger who won a Sevens gold medal with New Zealand at the 1998 Commonwealth Games.

All the right Olympic ingredients

“Playing the Commonwealth Games ranks as one of my greatest memories and it opened my eyes to what it must be like as a part of the Olympic family. It was something I savoured and I just wish I could have competed for an Olympic Gold medal.”

“Sevens has all the right ingredients. It is explosive, exciting, unpredictable and gives the opportunity for smaller Rugby nations to cause major upsets as demonstrated in Dubai.”

“It is effective in reaching new audiences, broadcasters and sponsors and I think Sevens would be a popular addition to the Games,” added Lomu.

For Lomu, who made his name playing in the New Zealand Sevens side in 1994, the prospect of genuinely competitive tournaments is an element that makes Sevens stand out and why fans from around the world flock in record numbers to watch new heroes making their mark.

“Look at Kenya, they are competing with the top five teams and are now actually knocking them off, while Argentina and USA are also challenging. It is great for Rugby around the world,” he said.

Kenya defeated Fiji in the quarter finals in Dubai – the first of four upsets in the round of eight that also saw England, South Africa and New Zealand crash out. The men’s semi final line-up also saw four continents represented in Kenya, Argentina, Wales and Samoa.

Boosting Rugby worldwide

Lomu, who is impressed with the increased competitiveness and universality of Sevens since his playing days, says that Olympic re-inclusion would grow the Rugby community worldwide.

“Being a part of the Olympic Games would serve to boost the development of Rugby worldwide. Not just for the teams who were competing in Dubai, but in reaching out and developing new markets. It is a very exciting prospect.”

“Sevens launched my career and I would not have been the player or person that I am without it. I enjoyed the experience immensely and the special attributes of camaraderie and respect that comes with being on the Sevens circuit."

“The top players would come and play in an Olympic Games tournament and would be proud to be Olympians. I have no doubt about that. We are all in sport to be the best and the Olympic Games is the world’s biggest sporting stage,” added Lomu.

Lomu met with the President of the International Rugby Board (IRB), Bernard Lapasset, in Dubai during the tournament to discuss his ongoing involvement in Rugby’s campaign leading up to the International Olympic Committee’s decision in Copenhagen in October 2009. The pair also explored new and engaging ways of demonstrating to the Olympic Family Lomu’s enthusiastic support and that of his fellow players from around the world moving forward.