WRU chairman David Pickering has praised the hard work and vision of former WRU and IRB chairman, the late Vernon Pugh, in Rugby Sevens being recommended for inclusion in the Olympic Games.
Pugh was the first permanent IRB chairman and from his appointment to the game's governing body in 1994, the march towards Olympic recognition began in earnest, after fellow Welshman, the then IRB secretary Keith Rowlands had begun the process of reuniting Rugby with the Olympic movement (Rugby was last an Olympic sport in the 1924 Olympic Games) by holding a series of informal meetings with the British Olympic Association Secretary, Dick Palmer.
A significant step in the process of acceptance back into the Olympic Movement was achieved at a ceremony held in Cardiff in November 1994, when the IRB was officially confirmed as a Recognised International Federation of the IOC. At that ceremony, International Olympic Committee President, Juan-Antonio Samaranch, pointed out that rugby's history and values were very much in tune with the Olympic philosophy and traditions. This historic meeting in Cardiff led to IRB representation at annual IOC meetings and consideration for inclusion in the programme of future Olympic Games.
Pickering said, "Vernon Pugh was the main instigator in driving IRB policy towards inclusion in the Olympic Games, it was part of his vision to expand rugby's reach as a world game and that vision now looks like it will become a reality in October when the IOC Congress will vote on the Council's recommendations to include Rugby Sevens in the Games.
"Rugby entering the Olympics will be the fruition of Vernon's dream and while it is sad that he didn't live to see the dream becoming reality, I'm sure the news will bring some solace to Vernon's family.
"Keith Rowlands was another Welshman whose work to pave the way for this day must be recognised, and I'm proud I can represent Wales on the IRB today and hopefully carry on some of the work done by these great men.
"A lot of people have worked extremely hard behind the scenes to get to where we are now, and a lot of money has gone into getting us to the position we are in today. I'd also like to acknowledge the work of IRB Chief Executive Mike Miller and chairman Bernard Lapasset for their tremendous efforts leading to yesterday's decision.
"It is fantastic that we enter this exciting new period for rugby as Rugby World Cup Sevens champions, that was a huge achievement for Paul John and his team of coaches and players last season and, providing the Congress accepts the decision of the Council in Copenhagen in October, we will now build on that achievement as we move towards 2016. The Olympics will now be a key date in the rugby calendar that will lift the game to new heights.
"The decision will also prove to be a massive boost to the Women's game, with Olympic medals now on offer for a Team GB.
"Sevens is a wonderfully exciting sport in its own right, and a brilliant development tool for the fifteen a side game. There is no hiding place in Sevens and skill levels are tested to the limit."
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