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UPCOMING OLYMPIC GAMES

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Rugby sevens' Olympic debut at Rio 2016 will be celebrated today as international stars compete in a special invitational beach rugby competition on the Brazilian capital's Ipanema coastline.

Supported by World Rugby and run by the Brazilian Rugby Union (CBRu), the competition sees the men's and women's teams representing Argentina, Italy and hosts Brazil take centre stage on one of the world's most iconic beach cities, at its busiest time of year.

The event will take place in the 1,000-seater arena on the beach and run alongside the Animal Rugby festival, which will see 150 children from across Rio, including those from a local social inclusion programmes, learning rugby basics in a fun and safe environment.

Rugby is one of the fastest-growing team sports in Brazil, and with more than 46,000 children having been introduced to it in the past two years, the CBRu and World Rugby is committed to ensuring that Rio 2016 provides a platform to inspire and engage new participants.

"We are excited about the debut of rugby sevens at Rio 2016 and the growth opportunity provided by showcasing our sport on the world's biggest sporting stage," said World Rugby President, Bernard Lapasset.

"Rugby sevens' winning blend of high-octane action, close competition and entertainment is proving a hit with young audiences, broadcasters and commercial partners and I am confident that Rio will love sevens.

"This is why we believe rugby sevens will be great for the Olympics, great for Brazil and great for rugby.

"This exciting competition, hosted at a busy time for beaches in Rio, will showcase the tremendous skill, speed and excitement of rugby and we look forward to welcoming the people of Rio to what promises to be a very special and fun event."

CBRu chief executive, Agustín Danza, added: "This event is an important milestone in the CBRu´s promotion of rugby in the build-up to the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.

"Our mission is to bring rugby sevens to the people of Rio de Janeiro, enable them to get to know the sport, play it, interact with professional players and be able to watch some of the best rugby teams in the world live.

"The objective is to raise awareness and interest for the sport, in order to maximise the popularity of rugby at the Olympic Games."

Rugby sevens proved to be extremely popular at the Nanjing Youth Olympic Games earlier this year, while an exciting competition at the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games attracted a world record sevens crowd of more than 150,000.

The Rio 2016 Organising Committee is excited about the value and opportunity that the sport will bring to the Games.

"We are confident that the speed, skill and passion of rugby sevens will capture the attention and interest of people in Rio and across our sport loving nation," said Agberto Guimarães, Rio 2016 Executive Director of Sport, who met with Lapasset last month in Rio.

"Seeing the Olympic qualifying get under way recently was another exciting step on the journey towards the Rio 2016 Games.

"We are making solid progress on the venue in the Deodoro zone and continue to work closely together with World Rugby as we move from the planning into the execution phase of the project.

"We have no doubt that rugby will integrate very well into the vibrant, multi-sport atmosphere that we are creating in Deodoro for the 2016 Games."

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