ISLAMABAD, Jun 22 (APP): With just over one month to go until the start of Tokyo 2020, International Hockey Federation (FIH) Tuesday on its website provided a snapshot summary of the history of hockey at the Olympic Games, a saga that began well over a century ago.
The inaugural Olympic Hockey Competition for men was held in London in 1908 with England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales competing separately.
With the addition of Germany and France, the competition ran with six teams. After having made its first appearance at the London Games, hockey was subsequently dropped from the 1912 Stockholm Games after host nations were granted control over ‘optional sports’. It reappeared in 1920 in Antwerp after pressure from Belgian hockey advocates before being omitted again in Paris in 1924.
The formation of the International Hockey Federation (FIH) in 1924 was not soon enough for the Paris Olympics but it did grant hockey re-entry in Amsterdam in 1928.
Hockey has been on the programme ever since, with women’s hockey included for the first time in Moscow in 1980. At the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games, hockey celebrated 100years as an Olympic sport, while at London 2012, hockey was the third biggest sport in terms of ticket sales with over 630,000 sold. The Olympics is the ultimate hockey competition, with the Olympic gold medal being the most coveted prize in the sport.
India is the most successful country with eight Olympic gold medals, all of which were won by the men’s team between 1928 and 1980. Pakistan, India’s great rivals, also enjoyed incredible success, winning three golds, three silvers and two bronze medals between 1956 and 1976.
In more recent years, the men’s and women’s teams of Australia, the Netherlands, Germany, Great Britain and Argentina have all made big impressions. Between 1996 and 2012, the Netherlands men contested four out of the five Olympic finals played during that period, winning gold at Atlanta 1996 and Sydney 2000.
The Dutch women have also enjoyed considerable success, competing in every final from 2004 to 2016 and winning gold at Beijing 2008 and London 2012, adding to the title they claimed in 1984.
Germany and Australia have also left indelible marks on Olympic hockey, with Germany winning five golds (men: 1972, 1992, 2000 & 2012 / women: 2004) and Australia four (women 1988, 1996 & 2000 / men: 2004).
Hockey has also seen its fair share of triumphs by the so-called underdogs. New Zealand men stunned the world to take gold at Montreal 1976, with Zimbabwe women creating shockwaves by winning at Moscow 1980 and Spain’s women making home advantage count to storm to gold at Barcelona 1992.
The most recent edition, Rio 2016, proved to be another year with unexpected winners, with Argentina men and Great Britain women – two teams ranked 7th in the world going into the competition – creating new chapters in hockey’s history books by snatching Olympic golds for the first time.
While Argentina men and Great Britain women will be determined to defend their respective Olympic titles, they will be challenged every step of the way by the world’s finest teams on the planet’s greatest sporting stage.
The hockey competitions at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 will take place from Saturday 24 July to Friday 6 August 2021.
Both the men’s and women’s competitions feature 12 teams, split into two pools of six ahead of quarter-finals, semi-finals and medal matches.