Pink-and-blue turf: The Riverbank Arena will give a special identity to the London Games. And of course, there will be the yellow ball for the spectators to spot from a distance. Aerial views of hockey matches this year will be a treat to watch.
Treble in waiting for two teams: The
Kookaburras (Australian men's team) and Las Leonas (Argentine women's
team) are coming to the Olympics with two current crowns, namely, the
World Cup and Champions Trophy. Both teams, considered top favourites in
their respective disciplines, have a great chance to complete a rare
Olympic hockey back at home: Hockey was
first introduced in the Olympics way back in 1908. Only a few teams,
most of which were from the United Kingdom apart from Germany and
France, had participated at the Games. The sport has covered a long
journey since then. The Big Dribble, a hockey roadshow which was
arranged a few months ago to get the people into an Olympic spirit, was a
huge success. Every ticket has been sold and the Riverbank Arena is
looking forward to an electrifying atmosphere during the Games.
London adds that extra edge:
The facts that one of the hockey powerhouses is organising the Games
this time and the hockey stadium is located close to the main press
centre will ensure that the sport will catch quite a few headlines. Some
prominent faces among the spectators including those from the Royal
family will make it all the more special.
New qualifier after the Games:
London will be the last Olympics with qualifying tournaments preceding
it. The men's qualification tournament held at Kakamiaghara in Japan in
May, which was won by South Africa, was the last such tournament. The
FIH World League, which would be held after the London Games, will serve
as the qualifying tournament for both major events like the Olympics
and World Cup hereafter.
Taking the hard route:
South Africa, despite qualifying for both the men's and women's sections
in the Games directly after winning the Africa Cup, decided that it was
not enough saying the level of African hockey was not up to the mark.
Both the teams were asked to take part in the qualifying rounds and they
took up the challenge and qualified for the Olympics. While the South
African men won in Japan, the women made it in India. Both defeated the
home teams in the finals.
First time in the Games: The
Belgian women's team (Belgian Panthers) will make its debut at the
Olympics this year. They stunned top teams like Ireland and Spain at the
Antwerp qualifying competition to earn the prized berth. They will be
lowest-ranked (16) team at the London Games.
The US women's team, ranked 10th in the world, earned their Olympic
berth after defeating one of the top favourites Argentina in the Pan
American Games. The US had won a bronze in the 1984 Games in quite a
bizarre way and finished eighth in the 2008 Games. London will give the
sport a fresh boost in the US. In the men's section, India will be a
team which will look to prove a point or two after they had failed to
qualify for the 2008 Beijing Games, quite unthinkable by the standard of
hockey they had once displayed at the top level.
Nations with two teams:
Australia, Argentina, Germany, the Netherlands, South Africa, Belgium,
Korea, New Zealand and the hosts, Great Britain, will be represented by
both their men's and women's team. This year. India, Japan, China,
Pakistan, US and Spain have one teams each.
London Olympics could be the final Olympics for several stars. Luciana
Aymar, Jamie Dwyer, Teun de Nooijer, Fu Baorong, Kate Walsh, Sohail
Abbas, Ignace Tirkey are to name some of the few.
Jill Boon and Tom Boon will represent the Belgium women's and men's
hockey teams at the London Games. This is the only brother-sister duo
taking part at this year's hockey tournament. Another player with a
glorious family connection will be Germany's Natascha Keller. The
34-year-old star player's grandfather Erwin Keller had won the silver in
the 1936 Games while her father Carsten Keller had won gold at the 1972
Munich Games. Natascha's elder brother Andreas won silver at the 1984
Los Angeles and 1988 Seoul Games before grabbing the gold at the 1992
Barcelona Games. Her younger brother Florian won gold at the Beijing
Games in 2008.
There are several other family connections at the games. To mention a
few the Harrison sisters Charlotte and Samantha will play for New
Zealand, The Reinprecht sisters Julia and Katie will represent USA and a
quarter of the Argentinian men's team is made up of the Vila family
with brothers and cousins. The Boon's are the only brother/sister act)