Rugby’s media stance damages Olympic dream

Any remote chance that there may have been of Rugby 7s being staged at Twickenham in 2012 as part of the London Olympics may have been scuppered by the International Rugby Board’s attitude in the accreditation dispute ahead of the World Cup, according to one of the most senior IOC members.

Rugby has been keen to return to the Olympic Games – it was last staged in Paris at the 1924 Chariots of Fire Games – and has lobbied hard for 7s, in the successful format used at Commonwealth Games, at one point harbouring hopes of returning in London in 2012.

Although claiming the Rugby World Cup to be the third biggest sporting event around the globe after the Olympics and football’s World Cup (overlooking sports events with larger global reach, such as the athletics World Championships, Winter Olympics, Commonwealth Games and Wimbledon tennis), the IRB was involved in a stand-off with the press earlier this month over its accreditation demands. An agreement was reached barely an hour before last Friday’s opening ceremony.

But Kevan Gosper, the chairman of the International Olympic Committee’s press commission, in an interview in today’s Australian newspaper, says, “This is not the way to behave if you want to be an Olympic sport”.

Gosper said he wanted to reassure the world’s press that the IOC had no plans to restrict press or photographic freedom beyond traditional boundaries at next year’s Beijing Olympics.

“There’s been several international federations who have moved in on the written press in the last few years and that makes me uneasy,” he said.

“For the IRB to put these constraints on the agencies is absolutely wrong. I want to make it clear that we are not compliant or complicit in the IRB’s moves. We will keep the status quo at the Olympics.

“I have never seen this sort of move by a sport in my 20 years on the IOC,” Gosper said. “I am a bit concerned that some international federations believe that the cash flow that derives from broadcasting rights entitles them to take a more high-handed approach with the press.

“They are not recognising the role the written press plays to set the scene for major events and provide the stories that frame the pictures. The press is also the main conduit for freedom of information.

“For those international agencies to say we can’t work under these conditions and threaten to boycott an event and for the IRB to think that’s fine is incomprehensible to me.”

Read Keir Radnedge on the IRB discussions here

More on this story:
Agreement reached with IRB
Five agencies suspend Rugby World Cup coverage
IRB dares media to boycott Rugby World Cup
European Federation of Journalists condemn IRB over photography plans

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