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Tales from the WorldHockey Olympic Qualifiers
15 May 2008 06:25

© FIH / Neil Hodge

So the Olympic Qualifiers have come and gone. We now know all the qualified teams and generally the favorites came through, not without the odd scare. The only mild surprise was the demise of Argentina’s men’s team, but nobody expected the hardy Kiwis to be a pushover at home in Auckland.

By Steve Jaspan

There will be many who suggest that the 6 tournaments (3 for men and 3 for women) with only one qualifier from each is a very tough way of qualifying. It undoubtedly is, but it certainly created considerable interest and gave many more nations at least two opportunities to qualify, (in their Continental tournament and the Qualifiers).

The OQ’s were extremely well organized. Given the logistics the Organizing Committees and FIH Office are to be commended. There will be calls for a new qualification system but this method will fundamentally be that used for the World Cups in 2023. What will follow? No doubt representations will be made for changed formats which the FIH will consider carefully.

Many knowledgeable hockey people were impressed with progress made by the Belgium, Italian and Azerbaijan women’s teams. Many were also disappointed to hear allegations of biased umpiring when top class officials and neutral umpires were appointed to all qualifiers. Amazing how this happens in virtually every sport when the stakes are high!

The status of Netherlands Antilles and their performance also stimulated debate! The progress of the Chinese teams in the build-up to the Olympics has been impressive especially their men’s team holding Australia recently in Darwin (losing only on penalty strokes).

In previous columns we’ve discussed the tragedy of the unlocked potential of Indian hockey, now compounded by more scandal. Watching the Indian Premier League cricket and the interest, excitement, big crowds, TV exposure, one can only wonder whether the sky is not the limit if Indian Hockey can get its act together. The positive spin-offs for Asian and WorldHockey could be enormous!

The World of Sport appears to be at an amazing new threshold. Technology is changing so many sports – not only equipment but television coverage, spectator enjoyment, shortened versions of games have all made administrators sit up and think. Certain sports have improved their profile using new approaches including marketing.

Young sports people are breaking down conventional barriers. Two young South Africans have set the Olympic Movement talking – Nathalie du Toit, with only one leg has qualified for the Olympic 10km swim.

Already a Para Olympic Superstar, she has shown incredible courage and determination whilst Oscar Pistorius, who had both legs amputated above the knee at the age of one, despite also being a Para Olympic Gold Medalist, wants to run in the Olympics on his prostheses – he is called “the blade runner” – and has appealed to CAS to be able to do so! Shades of the movie “Rollerball” and other new age movies!!.

Barriers are coming down everywhere and hockey needs to be at the cutting edge. I would love to hear readers’ ideas on how we keep hockey preeminent in the Olympic Movement and how we can stay ahead of our competitors in other sports. After all you are part of the special hockey family and we need to project the magnificent skilful game of hockey to best advantage!

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