January 28 - Planning for rugby sevens' debut at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro has started in earnest as the International Rugby Board (IRB) President Bernard Lapasset (pictured here with Jacques Rogge) and his team travelled to Lausanne for meetings with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the Association of Summer Olympic International Federations (ASOIF).

The meetings, the first between the organisations since the IOC overwhelmingly voted rugby sevens into the Olympic Games last October at the 121st Session in Copenhagen, will kick-start the formal collaborative process as the sport prepares for 2016.

Lapasset and his team will use the preliminary meetings as a constructive platform to discuss all aspects of Olympic Games inclusion.

Lapasset said: "I am delighted to be in Lausanne today to begin working in close collaboration with the IOC on our journey towards the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio.

"Our campaign for inclusion was an opportunity for us to explain why rugby is good for the Games and the Games good for rugby.

"Today we start giving life to this vision and look forward to providing guidance in the coming years to our National Unions (Federations) on leveraging this opportunity while also welcoming new nations into the rugby family.

"Rugby is about successful partnerships and teamwork and we will bring the same commitment to our work with the Olympic Family."

IOC Sports Director Christophe Dubi said: "Success in rugby requires all the players on a team to work in close collaboration towards a common goal and it is the same for sports that are a part of the Olympic programme.

"We are delighted to have President Lapasset, secretary general Mike Miller and the IRB team with us in Lausanne and we are sure that the spirit of collaboration evident in the meetings will guide us to a very successful Games for the Olympic Movement and rugby sevens in Rio in 2016."

ASOIF director Andrew Ryan said: "The Olympic Federations are very excited about having the IRB as a member of our group and expect it to be an important contributor in many areas beyond the Games alone."

The popularity of rugby sevens has further accelerated since the IOC decision with increased attendance and broadcast figures achieved for the opening rounds of the 2009-2010 IRB Sevens World Series.

Emerging rugby nations Brazil, Germany and Russia are also in the race to host Rugby World Cup Sevens 2013, all keen to showcase a sport that works so well on television and has such widespread international appeal for spectators.

While rugby sevens continues to reach out to new audiences around the world, the IRB is currently in the process of conducting a major overhaul of its Sevens Strategic Plan, a process that will provide the blueprint for growth across all areas as the sport prepares for its Olympic Games debut.

"The IRB Sevens Strategic Plan underpinned the unprecedented growth of men's and women's rugby sevens, culminating in the global Rugby family realising its Olympic dream.

"With that major strategic goal achieved, the current five year contractual cycle of the IRB Sevens World Series entering its penultimate year and collaboration with the IOC under way, it is now the appropriate time to move to the next phase of strategic planning considering all aspects of Rugby Sevens’ development around the world.

"This process has the purpose of delivering the framework for rugby sevens at all levels to continue to flourish and reach out to new markets, new communities and new male and female players of all ages, while ensuring that all our Unions have access to a development and tournament pathway that optimises the effects of Olympic Games inclusion."

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January 2010:
RFU begin developing strategy to take advantage of sevens inclusion in Olympics
December 2009: Drop rugby sevens from Olympics to save Scotland says Maxwell
December 2009: Olympics will make rugby sevens bigger than 15's predicts Kirwan
November 2009: South Africa and England excited by start of new era for rugby sevens
November 2009: Olympics will make it harder for teams like England predicts Gollings