David Flatman: Sevens heaven will provide our game with a legacy in Rio
From the Front Row: Usain Bolt does not have the promotion of rugby at the top of his to-do list
Sunday 02 September 2012
What I expected from the Olympic Games and what I got were two different things. I thought I would use the clever little computers inside my television to casually watch the bits that interested me while I sipped tea and amused myself with car magazines and biscuits. Instead, I found myself changing as a person.
I would arrive home from work, my head frazzled, but where normally I would flop into the house, graze a while and natter about all things trivial with my wife, I tore into the lounge, clamped myself into my now repositioned chair and hit the "on" button.
My eyes would glaze over, my mouth would hang open and I'd cease to communicate. The first few days were met with nothing more than loving tutts at home, but week two saw my marriage begin to dissolve. In fact, when I mentioned the Paralympics last night, she mentioned counselling. You see, the Games were not an event; they turned out to be a movement. It was a magnificent experience and I miss it. But we must move on with our lives. It's what they would have wanted.
The question is, what is left? The Olympic legacy was discussed ad nauseam before the Games; now we must wait to see what becomes of us as a sporting nation. I am sure that a few more tall, wide-shouldered men will wander into rowing clubs to see what all the fuss is about, and I am sure that beach volleyball will become the most Googled sport in history. But what about everyone else?
Football will take care of itself, naturally, and cricket will likely continue to be both hugely popular and hugely divisive in terms of support. But let's be selfish for a moment. I wonder if rugby might see any benefit from what has just happened.
Sure, the odd failing sprinter might try rugby for size and see how he likes life on the wing, but how many sprinters do you imagine would enjoy having their legs and back stamped on come Saturday afternoon? And we might even lose a few. Second rows are often a great natural shape to row or to throw and, guess what? It is very rare for a rower to get chinned while competing.
But the Sevens, now that might work. Having been born with unusually heavy bones, I was never terribly interested in playing Sevens. But I also spent some time wondering why we rarely see top Sevens players become top players in the 15-a-side game.
Among other reasons, Sevens promotes habits that are less useful in the full game. Those arguments are for another day, but I do think it is the perfect game for the Olympic stage.
Football – the men's version at least – seemed almost irrelevant at the Games just passed. It seemed too slow and undynamic and not at all at home. But rugby Sevens will offer the viewer so much more; there will be the traditionally well-muscled, tight-jerseyed blokes steaming into each other, and this will display to the world the courage and fierceness that we see every weekend. Those areas of the game regarded as iconic, like the scrum and the maul, will not form part of the package as there will not be time. The games are short and explosive, with tries being scored at a totally alien rate.
The Olympic Stadium, magnificent as it is, won't see much rugby, and Usain Bolt, wondrous as he is, does not have the promotion of rugby union at the top of his to-do list.
I think we rugby types will feel and see the benefits brought about by an Olympic legacy. I just think those benefits will be generated in Rio in four years' time.
And I think the game would really benefit if we got out there as soon as possible to soak up the atmosphere. I'm keen if you are.
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