Jonah Lomu in Pichot's thoughts as sevens makes Olympics bow

RIO DE JANEIRO -- When France and Spain kick off the women's sevens on Saturday, Agustin Pichot will be seated in the stands of the Deodoro Stadium enveloped by conflicting emotions as rugby makes its return to the Games.

Elected as World Rugby's new vice-chairman in May, there will be the sheer joy for Pichot of seeing 10 years of pitching the sport to the International Olympic Committee, getting it approved and then planning ahead of Rio 2016 come to fruition.

But on-field events, thoughts of legacy and the significance of sevens being played here in Rio may temporarily be parked as he casts his mind back to the influential role that his great friend Jonah Lomu -- the All Blacks superstar who passed away in Nov. 2015 -- played in getting their bid to join the Games approved back in 2009.

"Yesterday when I arrived [in Rio], a lot of emotions came through," Pichot said on Friday. "I was thinking of Jonah first, he was a very close friend of mine and I was thinking I would love to be with him here today and tomorrow at the Games."

While Lomu has been synonymous with the game since his explosion onto the scene in 1995, it is former Argentina scrum-half Pichot who is now a key protagonist in driving rugby forward.

As the vice president of the game's organizing body, he is the man who has already done so much for Argentinean rugby in driving it into the Rugby Championship and Super Rugby.

Recently selected by Rugby World as the game's most influential figure, he will bring a no-nonsense approach to ongoing discussions over rugby's global season, but the post-Olympics legacy for this part of the world is also firmly on his radar.

Pichot knows the political dynamics of rugby in this part of the world better than any, and he has been instrumental in ensuring Brazil was ready for rugby in the Olympics and ensuring a sustainable plan is in place after the Games.

World Rugby's IMPACT Beyond Rio programme, which was instigated in March 2015, has already reached 175,000 players, coaches and young match officials.

The foundations are there, but Pichot's nous, alongside the Union Argentina de Rugby, will be invaluable in ensuring that not only Brazil and Colombia, who have qualified for the women's sevens, but Latin America as a whole can build on the spike in interest.

"We have a great responsibility with the region, before the Olympic Games and afterwards," Pichot said. "We want a fast, dynamic sport and I think that being here now in a Latin country in South America is a great statement.

"It's there in the top things in the evolution of rugby in the last 30 years and while the challenges are big, we hope we can keep up with the pace. Though I am speaking in English, you have to remember that a lot of countries in the world don't speak that.

"I think that now we'll see a lot of countries who are not in that Anglo-Saxon rugby scene, we'll see other countries looking at rugby. We've seen that with Colombia and I have been to Mexico and many countries in Latin America and Asia who can see they have an opportunity. That's very big for rugby."

It is a moment Pichot feels is rugby's biggest since the introduction of professionalism after the 1995 World Cup, an event that launched Lomu into rugby's consciousness.

Memories of his friend will never fade, but Pichot will be hugely proud of everything they have achieved as rugby returns to the Games on Saturday for the first time since 1924.

"Finally, we are here, and how exciting," Pichot said. "We are very proud to be in the Olympics. We want to enjoy these Games, and I am sure the athletes will do everything they can to be at the top of their game."