Team USA celebrates its return to Las Vegas during the Parade of Nations on Jan. 23 at Fremont Street Experience. (Courtesy: Brian Jones/Las Vegas News Bureau)
LAS VEGAS (FOX5) -
Rugby is among the fastest-growing sports in the world, and for the first time will be featured in the Olympics, starting in 2016.
It's a phenomenon Las Vegas fans are well aware of. The city has hosted the USA Sevens International Rugby Tournament for the past few years, and Thursday night marked its return.
Opening ceremonies took place at Fremont Street Experience, highlighted by the Parade of Nations.
"Rugby right now is the fastest-growing sport in American, and it's the No. 2, No. 3 sport in the world," said USA Sevens Vice President of Business Development Rob Cornelius.
The Las Vegas games will be fast and dynamic. They'll feature just seven players per team rather than the traditional 15, and each match will consist of two 7 one-half minute halves with two-minute intervals for pool and knockout matches.
"Next year will be an Olympic qualifier for the Summer Olympics in Brazil, so you'll see future Olympians next year. Hopefully next year we'll get close to 90,000, and the year of the Olympics, hopefully, we'll have over 100,000 crazy rugby fans in Las Vegas," Cornelius said.
The athletes you'll see in Las Vegas will represent their counties in Brazil.
"Twelve teams will be in the Summer Olympics in Brazil, and of that four will qualify from Las Vegas," Cornelius said.
The tournament last year brought in about $19 million in non-gaming revenue to Las Vegas. This year, it's projected to bring nearly $25 million.
Tournament play begins Friday at the Sam Boyd Stadium at 4 p.m., and winds up Sunday at 3 p.m. Tickets are $35 for adults and $20 for children.
The international tournament boasts 16 top teams from around the world, including teams from Argentina, Australia, Canada, England, Fiji, France, Kenya, New Zealand, Portugal, Samoa, Spain, Uruguay, Wales and the United States.