I love rugby but have no vote, says Rogge

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WELLINGTON, New Zealand (Reuters) – Rugby’s chances of making the 2016 Olympics will not benefit from the fact that Games’ chief Jacques Rogge was once an openside flanker for Belgium.

“I never found the joy in sailing that I did in rugby,” Rogge, who competed in sailing at three Olympics, told reporters yesterday.

“My love for rugby is intact … I have a lot of sympathy but I do not vote.”

Rugby sevens, an abbreviated version of the traditional 15-man game, and six other sports — golf, karate, roller sports, squash, baseball and softball — are all lobbying to be one of two sports added to the programme at the 2016 Olympics.

The 2012 Games in London will have 26 sports, which will be expanded four years later to the maximum cap of 28.

Each of the sports is making the trek to the South Island resort town of Queenstown for the Oceania National Olympic Committee General Assembly, which begins on Tuesday.

Rugby is New Zealand’s national sport. Its sevens team are three-time Commonwealth Games champions and have won eight of the nine titles on the International Rugby Board’s sevens circuit.

“Rugby is a great sport, there is no doubt about that,” Rogge, president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), said.

“The problem with 15s is that two weeks of Olympic Games is not enough for a tournament. You cannot play rugby every second or third day because of the bruises and time to recover.

“There is also a big gap between the strong nations and the rest of the pack which is not the case with sevens.

“We saw that at the weekend in Hong Kong,” he said with a smile, referring to New Zealand’s quarter-final loss to Kenya at the most famous sevens tournament of them all.

Rogge said sports must demonstrate universality, their ability to add value to the Olympics, their low cost in infrastructure and ease of organisation.

“Ultimately, they must fit into the Olympic programme.”