CHRIS KIRWAN SAYS: Sevens unlikely to provide Rio thrill
10:10am Thursday 16th August 2012 in Sport
IT may have looked like an event that should have been hosted by Gordon Burns but the modern pentathlon provided a fitting end to the Olympics.
Samantha Murray’s silver was the last of Great Britain’s 65 medals and ensured the Games finished on a high.
The likelihood, however, that rugby sevens will provide the same thrill and feel-good factor at Rio 2016 is not great.
It will join tennis, football and fellow new arrival golf in the group of sports whose presence is dubious when compared to those that require four years of graft to take part in what, for many, is a career highlight.
Nonetheless, the presence of sevens will showcase rugby to a wider audience and ‘smaller’ nations are more competitive in the shorter format, where the likes of Kenya and Portugal provide shocks on the IRB circuit.
It will also provide Fiji and Samoa, two of sevens’ big hitters, with the opportunity to claim gold. Neither claimed a medal of any colour in London.
Argentina, beaten by Wales in the World Cup final in 2009, will also be keen to win on the soil of their fierce rivals.
But it is hard to see it having the same importance as the goings-on at the lake, velodrome or hockey field.
I find sevens fine in small doses but after watching three games it becomes clear why alcohol is as important as the on-field action for many spectators.
From Hong Kong to Dubai to Las Vegas to Twickenham, sevens events give the impression of it being a bit of a jolly, not something that is the pinnacle of a sportsman’s career.
It is a sport that is generally used to teach young prospects, particularly wingers, skills that will serve them well in 15s.
The introduction of Olympic sevens could change that, but it’s hard to see it being anything but a sideshow before the domestic season and Rugby Championship.
And it will be galling for those on the squash circuit – a sport that surely should be at the Games – to be sat at home watching rugby players at the opening ceremony in Rio in four years time.