Olympic Preview: Field Hockey

Updated February 21, 2017 | Factmonster Staff

First Olympic Appearance: 1908 (men), 1980 (women)

by John Gettings and Mark Zurlo

Related Links


Did You Know?
India has won eight gold medals at the Olympics - all of them in this event. From 1928-56 India won six consecutive gold medals in men's field hockey, winning all 24 Olympic matches it played during that span while outscoring their opponents 178-7.


Historians agree that this sport was being played by civilizations that predate the Ancient Olympic games by more than 1,000 years. Drawings on ancient Egyptian tombs offer evidence that this was the first of all the stick-and-ball sports.

The current form of the game gained popularity throughout the British Empire in the 19th century, especially in the region that includes India and Pakistan. The 2000 Sydney games saw elimination of the offsides rule, formally rescinded by the International Hockey Federation in 1998 to foster improved scoring.

The game is played on an artificial turf field that is 100 yards by 60 yards. The goals are seven feet high and 12 feet wide (a soccer goal is one foot taller and twice the width). In front of each goal is a semi-circle measured 16 yards from each goal post. All scoring must happen from within this area called the goal circle.

Each team has 11 players on the field (including a goalkeeper) and the objective is to score goals in the opponent's net. The team with the most goals after two 35-minute halves, wins. Actual game play looks a lot like a soccer-ice hockey hybrid except that:

  1. Players are only allowed to use one side of their stick to hit the ball.
  2. Lifting the ball or the stick too high, other than to shoot, is discouraged.
  3. Shielding of the ball with one's body is not allowed, rather all players must be given an equal chance to gain control of the ball as it is dribbled or passed down the field.

There will be 12 men's teams and ten women's teams competing in Beijing. Those teams will be split into two pools with the top two teams in each pool advancing to the medal round. The competition will be held at the Olympic Green Hockey Field, adjacent to the Olympic Green Convention Center and fencing hall. Field A will seat 15,000 spectators, while field B will seat 5,000.

Sources +