Rio 2016: Rugby and the Olympic Games are a match made in sevens

Rugby sevens as an Olympic sport is here to stay.

It may not have been confirmed yet, but few will argue its debut at Rio 2016 has been anything other than a resounding success.

As part of an increasingly crowded schedule of events, the sevens format proved more than capable of holding its own against other sports in the jostle for attention and airtime.

And the shortened format is crucial to its success - the 15-a-side game would not have fared anywhere near as well as its younger sibling in the Olympic environment.

With matches lasting 14 minutes in total, or 20 minutes in the final, these bitesize bursts of high-intensity action were a welcome addition to the programme.

Reigning World Series champions Fiji lived up to their billing by claiming gold in emphatic fashion in the men's event - the country's first ever Olympic medal.

The scenes that followed the final whistle proved just how much victory meant, with victorious players bursting into impromptu hymn singing on the field, while fans took to the streets to celebrate back home.

But this was not a predictable tournament by any means.

World Cup holders New Zealand lost to Japan in their opening fixture, losing star man Sonny Bill Williams to injury before being beaten by Fiji in the quarter-finals, and Great Britain - a team assembled specifically for the Games - claimed silver.

Women's rugby, of any code or format, has arguably never been played on as grand a stage, and the competition - eventually won by Australia - proved just as thrilling as the men's.

Other highlights at Deodoro included New Zealand's women performing an emotional Haka following their final defeat, and a volunteer's marriage proposal which was accepted by her partner - a player for Brazil in the women's tournament.

Sevens in Rio really did capture the "Olympic spirit".

Organisers will hope sevens' success as an Olympic sport has the power to popularise rugby beyond its traditional heartlands, and the fact seven different nations were represented in the semi-finals across the men's and women's draws proved it to be an event with truly global appeal.

Sevens' future beyond Tokyo 2020 is unclear, but the stars could be aligning for World Rugby and those behind its involvement.

By the time the Games arrive in Japan in four years' time, the emerging rugby nation will have already hosted the Rugby World Cup a year earlier, so local interest in the sport should be at its peak.

Sevens, which will face increased competition for attention from the likes of sports climbing and surfing in Tokyo, is riding the crest of a wave and has set an example for other Olympic newcomers to follow.