Desk of the President

Last month, Osaka, Japan and Milton Keynes, England were hotbeds of hockey activity of the most intense kind. At these two venues, the remaining men's and women's teams to qualify for the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games were to be decided. Olympic dreams would be realised or dashed.

Six teams from the men's tournament in Osaka and five teams from the women's tournament in Milton Keynes earned their chance to compete at the Games. It is a dream come true for them all, I am sure, and I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate them and recognise this important achievement. The teams that have qualified are, for the men, Spain, Pakistan, Korea, Poland, Great Britain and Malaysia, and for the women, New Zealand, Great Britain, Germany, Spain and China.

The Sydney Olympic Hockey competition is expected to be superb on all fronts. There is no doubt the competition will be outstanding and intense. The quality of hockey is sure to enthrall fans and viewers around the world, perhaps especially our sport loving Australian hosts. The FIH has been in very close contact from the very beginning with the Sydney Organising Committee for the Olympic Games, and all plans are running smoothly. I anticipate the organisation of the events to be outstanding for all participants, officials and members of the media in attendance.

The hockey family is looking forward with excitement and anticipation to what will surely be one of, if not, the best Olympic hockey competitions thus far.

South Africa story
As many of you may be aware, the National Olympic Committee of South Africa (NOCSA) recently announced some members of the Olympic contingent to represent South Africa during the Olympic Games. Included in the team was the South African women's hockey team, which had qualified for the Olympic Games by winning the All Africa Games late last year. Not included, however, was the South Africa men's team, which has also qualified for the Olympic Games under FIH qualification guidelines. The South African men had also won the All Africa Games hockey competition.

This situation is most distressing to me and interested hockey lovers around the world.

There has been much discussion on the matter since it became clear that NOCSA did not intend to send the men's hockey team to Sydney. The FIH, and myself personally, have been in close contact on the matter with Clare Digby, president of the South Africa Hockey Association. On page seven of this newsletter, you can read the text of a statement I issued in mid-February, voicing my support for the South African men's team, and explaining why we feel strongly about the reversal of this decision.

It is my fervent hope that an agreement can be reached with NOCSA that would allow the South African men's team to compete in Sydney and still satisfy NOCSA's national qualification criteria. This matter is being pursued with the utmost respect for all parties involved, and of course, with the best interests of our sport in mind.

Working group on Sructure
As reported in the last issue of International Hockey News, the FIH Council in its meeting in Cairo, Egypt last October established a working group to examine the current structure of the FIH, and if necessary, make recommendations on its improvement. I know that the working group has met, and shortly, we will have its report. Regardless of the decisions taken, however, I hasten to point out that examination itself and any possible changes are being undertaken with the aim of improving our sport. Just as coaches anaylse and examine their team composition and tactics to ensure optimal performance, so too must the FIH.

Juan Angel Calzado
President, FIH