The Federation of Oceania Rugby Unions (FORU) and the Oceania National Olympic Committees (ONOC) have signed an historic Memorandum of Understanding.
The agreement will see the two organisations work together to jointly foster Rugby throughout the Region and assist the integration of Member Unions into the Olympic family.
Signed at the FORU Annual General Meeting in Wellington, New Zealand, the agreement represents a further boost to the sport ahead of Rugby Sevens’ Olympic Games debut in 2016.
“This landmark agreement is an exciting step in the development of the Game that will deliver significant opportunities for Member Unions in Oceania as we count down to Rugby Sevens’ Olympic Games debut in Rio de Janeiro in 2016,” said IRB Chairman Bernard Lapasset in Wellington.
“Rugby is now the sport of choice for more men, women, boys and girls across Oceania than ever before. This growth is mirrored around the globe, with participation increasing by 19% since Rugby World Cup 2007 and the Game now played by more than five million people in 117 countries.”
“What’s more the world’s largest sporting event this year, Rugby World Cup 2011, will kick off in New Zealand in less than five months time, providing a fantastic opportunity to showcase and celebrate Rugby in Oceania.”
IOC Member and ONOC Vice President Barry Maister attended the FORU Annual General Meeting to sign the agreement and address the Unions.
“There is genuine excitement in the region that Rugby Sevens has been included on the Olympic Programme for 2016 and 2020,” said Maister.
“It is important that this excitement is harnessed and that the Rugby Unions work in partnership with the National Olympic Committees in each country to not only prepare for Olympic qualification but to grow the sport more broadly.”
Oceania has an outstanding record of success in Rugby Sevens and the inclusion of Rugby Sevens as an Olympic Sport is generating great excitement in the Oceania Rugby community. Australia are the current Women’s Rugby Sevens World Cup champions, while Samoa are the defending HSBC Sevens World Series champions.
For the Pacific Islands Olympic inclusion presents a considerable opportunity to showcase their country on the world’s biggest sporting stage and a genuine medal prospect for Fiji, Samoa and Tonga.
The Pacific Islands have won just one medal in Olympic competition to date with Tongan boxer Paea Wolfgramm winning the Super Heavyweight Silver medal at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, USA.
“We are most grateful to ONOC and the ONOC Executive for the warmth with which they have welcomed us into the Olympic family,” said Tauiliili Harry Schuster, FORU President and IRB Council Member.
“This Memorandum of Understanding is so important to us and we are looking forward to helping our Member Unions integrate into the Olympic Movement. This is new ground for us and we are committed to Rugby being an enthusiastic and active member of the Olympic family.”
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