Kenyan double Olympic gold medallist Kip Keino believes that Rugby Sevens would be a valuable addition to the Olympic Games programme in 2016.
The middle-distance hero, who won gold in the 1,500 metres at the 1968 Olympics and the 3,000m Steeplechase four years later, was in Nairobi to watch the start of the IRB Junior World Rugby Trophy 2009 on Tuesday and, as one of Rugby’s biggest fans, to lend his support to hosts Kenya.
“With regards to Rugby’s chances to become an Olympic sport, I believe that Rugby Sevens has great potential. It is fast, it is entertaining, the crowds love it and the matches are short. It could have a place in the Olympics,” Keino said.
A Rugby player before his athletics career took off, Keino can often be found at the Rugby Football Union of East Africa Grounds in Nairobi, where the annual Safari international Sevens are played - a tournament for which he holds special affection.
“I was a Rugby player from 1960 to 1962 and thoroughly enjoyed playing and the camaraderie of being part of a team. Of course, I was a wing! We didn’t have too much coaching back in those days, but I liked to run with the ball.”
Now chairman of the Kenyan Olympic Association and an International Olympic Committee member, Keino watched Romania’s 50-17 defeat of Papua New Guinea before supporting countrymen Kenya as they narrowly lost 22-17 to Namibia on an entertaining opening day of action in Nairobi.
“I really enjoyed it,” he commented. “Our team did very well. It is a fantastic tournament and I am very proud to see Kenya hosting such a prestigious Rugby event.”
For the Kenya Rugby Football Union, Keino’s presence added to the special atmosphere as the Union celebrated making history by becoming the first Union in Africa outside of South Africa to host a major IRB tournament.
Under the auspices of the International Rugby Board (IRB), the Junior World Rugby Trophy plays a key development role and aside from providing some of the world’s finest players at Under 20 level with exposure to a high level of international competition, the annual eight-team tournament performs a wider legacy and development role for the host country.
Growing the Game
“He (Keino) always comes to the Sevens and thoroughly enjoys himself. During the Kenya match he kept telling me they needed more space on the field to run. Needless to say, he really enjoyed the tries they scored. Kip has been very helpful to Kenyan Rugby and it is also a pleasure to see him come to matches.
“The IRB is committed to growing the Game across Africa and in 2007 the Confederation of African Rugby (CAR) IRB Regional Association signed an historic accord with the Association of National Olympic Committees of Africa (ANOCA) aimed at jointly fostering Sport and Rugby in the region,” said IRB President Bernard Lapasset.
The IRB currently invests over US$2.2 million a year in CAR Union development programmes and regional tournament infrastructure aimed at raising the competitiveness of the Game in Africa. A further US$1 million is being invested in the organisation of the IRB Junior World Rugby Trophy 2009, of which US$100,000 will be dedicated to the tournament’s legacy programme.
Over the next four years the IRB and CAR will oversee the roll out of a wide-reaching grass roots development programme aimed at introducing 100,000 primary school children to the Sport by 2012. The project, run in conjunction with the Kenyan Government, is the largest of its kind in the country.
Player Quotes of Support
“More than anything, Sevens embodies the Olympic ideals of camaraderie, fair play and respect on and off the field of play.” – Shane Williams, Wales
“You play sport at the highest level to challenge yourself to be the best that you can possibly be and to compete with the best from all over the world, and what better stage to do that on than at the Olympics?” – Sue Day, England
“Going to the Commonwealth Games was amazing and to have the chance to go to the Olympics would be right up there with anything you could possibly dream of doing in sport.” – Tamati Ellison, New Zealand
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