Island to host Rugby Sevens
Barbados’ self-confessed small sport is about to go big.
So big, it could end up being this country’s largest sports tourism event for 2011.
The sport of rugby, played by fewer than 200 people here, will take centre stage at one of the island’s most historic venues next month when Barbados stages the North American and Caribbean Rugby Association’s (NACRA) International Sevens Championships on November 12 and 13.
Rugby was first played in Barbados by British soldiers around 1860 at the Garrison Savannah, and now, 150 years later, the sport is truly coming of age, with the two-day tournament cramming 86 matches into two days in what can be considered the sport’s version of Twenty20 cricket.
In sevens action, matches last just 14 minutes, consisting of two halves.
“It’s going to be exciting. And it’s going to be in Barbados, which is the most important thing,” Barbados Rugby Football Union president George Nicholson said yesterday at a Press launch.
“We believe this event will bring at least 300 to 400 visitors into the island in under a week.
“We wanted to not only promote rugby, but to promote Barbados as well,” he stressed.
In staging the tournament for the first time, Barbados will be playing host to 27 teams from 17 countries, as well as hundreds of support staff, supporters and officials of the International Rugby Board for at least a week.
In addition, the event will be streamed live via the Internet, thanks to sponsors DHL, a company that also played a huge role in the just ended Rugby World Cup in New Zealand.
Rugby has a massive international profile, with this month’s World Cup trailing only soccer’s World Cup and the Olympics as the most viewed sporting event on global television.
This sevens tournament will have both men’s and women’s competitions, with two pitches being used at the Garrison each day.
In the men’s tourney, hosts Barbados have been grouped with arch-rivals Jamaica, Martinique and Turks and Caicos.
Five-time defending champions Guyana, the Cayman Islands, Mexico, The Bahamas, Guadeloupe, Bermuda, Curacao, USA South, Trinidad and Tobago, St Lucia and St Vincent are the other men’s teams.
In women’s action, fierce rivals Trinidad and Tobago and Guyana are expected to lead the charge against the Cayman Islands, Guadeloupe, Mexico, USA South, St Lucia, St Vincent and the Maple Leafs of Canada.
One of the sport’s household names, professional commentator Nick Jordan, will be in Barbados as a special guest of the Barbados Tourism Authority, a co-sponsor of the event.
Along with commentary, Jordan will also be involved in a video presentation showing off Barbados as a cultural destination.
Rugby has a serious Internet following, as this year’s Under-19 Championships – which were also streamed live – attracted more than 12 000 views during the week-long tournament.
Based on the high level of recognition the sport currently has in the wake of the World Cup, Barbados’ Internet streams are expected to be higher than those of the Cayman tournament.
According to Nicholson, rugby is slowly taking root in Barbados, as the Barbados Rugby Football Union now has a development officer in six schools. Talks are under way for an eventual schools league, once international coaches become more prevalent.
Public relations officer Kathie Daniel suggested that staging the tournament at the Garrison would provide a double boost for tourism, since the Savannah had also recently been officially recognized as a World Heritage Site.
The live Internet stream can be seen at dhlnacrasevens.com and daily results will be available on www.nacrugby.com