The Origins of Rugby
Legend has it that the game originated at Rugby school (hence the name) in England, when one of the pupils, William Webb Ellis, picked up the ball during a game of soccer in 1823 and ran with it. Of course the story is most likely apocryphal, since games involving running with a "ball" in hand had existed for centuries before that. At any rate William Webb Ellis's deed is commemorated by a stone on the Rugby school grounds with the enscription:
COMMEMORATES THE EXPLOIT
WILLIAM WEBB ELLIS
WHO WITH A FINE DISREGARD FOR THE RULES OF FOOTBALL,
AS PLAYED IN HIS TIME,
FIRST TOOK THE BALL IN HIS ARMS AND RAN WITH IT,
THUS ORIGINATING THE DISTINCTIVE FEATURES OF
THE RUGBY GAME
William Webb Ellis
William Web Ellis was born in 1806 in Salford, and went to Rugby school in 1816, where he performed his famous deed at the age of 16. In 1825 he attended Oxford University, where he won a cricket blue in 1827. He eventually became the chaplain of St George's Chapel in Albermale, London. He died in 1872 in France.
The History of Rugby at the Olympics
It's not well known that rugby has been on the Olympic program on four occasions -- in Paris in 1900, London in 1908, Antwerp in 1920 and Paris in 1924, with the US being the reigning Olympic Champions.
In 1900 in Paris three teams -- France, Germany and Britain -- entered. France took the gold medal beating Germany 27-17. Germany took the silver beating Britain 27-8 in the only other game, with the Brits awarded the bronze.
In London 1908 there were only two teams, Britain and Australia. In the only match, a straight final, Australia won 32-3.
In 1920 in Antwerp there were again only two teams, the USA and France. The USA had an unexpected 8-0 win in the only match.
Paris in 1924 saw three teams, France, USA, and Romania, enter. Both France and the USA beat Romania in a type of round robin and then played each other in a final at Colombes Stadium, Paris. The USA won the gold with a 17-3 victory in front of a crowd of 30,000.
It seems the USA victory was not popular in France. The American anthem was jeered and the match is reported to have ended in an uproar when a walking-stick brandishing French fan attacked one of the American reserves.
At the Amsterdam games in 1928 the International Olympic Committee turned down a request to include rugby. The reasons thought to be behind the decision were that the IOC sought more emphasis on individual sports; that women's events had increased the number of competitors; and that the sport didn't receive the backing expected from the British entries.
In 1980 the Soviet Union, and in 1988 South Korea, attempted to have rugby reinstated as an Olympic sport, with the 1988 attempt nearly achieving success.
While it would be logistically difficult to hold a full fifteen-a-side rugby competition in conjunction with the Olympics, the popularity of Sevens rugby at the Commonwealth Games has been such that a Sevens competition at the Olympics would surely be a worthwhile addition to the program.