The Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games is underway. It will be a Games like no other. With an unexpected additional year of preparation and little opportunity for competition over the past 18 months, the world’s top men’s and women’s rugby sevens players are ready to light up Tokyo Stadium and put a smile on the faces of fans around the world.
The magnitude of the occasion – an event that will bring people together at a time of great separation – is not lost on World Rugby Chairman Sir Bill Beaumont, who believes that six days of world class sevens will showcase the very best of rugby, sport and its ability to unite at times of difficulty.
Speaking on the eve of the men’s event getting underway at Tokyo 2020, Beaumont said: “It has been a uniquely challenging journey for all involved to reach these Olympic Games and we thank the IOC, Tokyo 2020 and the Japanese authorities for their hard work and dedication to ensure the delivery of a safe, secure and high-quality environment for the 12 men’s and 12 women’s teams to perform at the best of their abilities in a truly world-class venue.
“During this difficult time for humanity the Tokyo Olympics will act as a symbol of global unity, solidarity and inspiration. We are stronger together and we believe there is no better sport than rugby to reflect those integral values both on and off the pitch.”
Interest in rugby sevens is fast-growing around the globe and the Olympic Games events will showcase the speed, skill and end-to-end drama of this intense and dynamic game over six days of thrilling competition which features teams from all six World Rugby regions.
Following the outstanding success of Rugby World Cup 2019 in Japan, which captured the host nation’s imagination with record-breaking broadcast audiences and huge numbers of new rugby fans, rugby sevens is expected to be one of the most highly anticipated sports of the Tokyo Games.
Beaumont continued: “The inclusion of rugby sevens for the first time in the Olympic Games at Rio 2016 had a profound effect on the sport, attracting an estimated 30 million new fans globally and we are constantly looking at innovative ways to develop the sport, engage with new fans and increase its worldwide coverage.
“The players are the stars of the show and to ensure the teams are as best prepared as possible for these Games, and thanks to support received from the IOC, World Rugby has invested US$4 million into Olympic qualified unions’ sevens programmes and towards hosting a number of high-performance preparation events.
“Now it is time for the best players on the planet to demonstrate their talents on the world’s biggest sporting stage, and I have no doubt every player is very excited and proud to be representing their nation here in Tokyo.
“My thanks and best wishes go to all the players, coaches, match officials, staff, volunteers and fans around the world who have contributed to making these Games possible, and are the heart and soul of our game – an inclusive sport for all.”
The Olympic Games rugby sevens events will take place in the Tokyo Stadium from 26 July – 31 July. Men’s Olympic champions Fiji will face hosts Japan in the opening match on 26 July, while the women’s competition kicks off with France v Fiji on 29 July. The men’s gold medal match will be played on 28 July, with the women’s gold medal decided on ‘Super Saturday’, 31 July.