World Champion is no longer an automatic
qualifier for the Olympic Games
Winning a World Championship is certainly a cherished jewel in the crown of hockey accomplishments, but it is no longer an automatic ticket to the Olympic Games. ?? This announcement, which marks a significant change to Olympic hockey qualification, was made by the International Hockey Federation during the Atlanta Olympic Games. The new system applies to both men and women and will be in effect for the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games.

The change has been instituted for a number of reasons. With a two-year gap between World Cup competitions and the next Olympic competition, the relative strength of international teams can change drastically in that time. Furthermore, an automatic berth for World Champions actually provides two chances at Olympic qualification; the World Cup and their Continental qualifying tournament. Finally, while World Cup standings play into Olympic qualification, there is no obvious or necessary link between the two which dictates automatic qualification.

Qualification for the 12-nation mens tournament in the Sydney 2000 Olympics will still include automatic spots for the Olympic gold medal holders, winners of the continental qualifying tournaments (Africa, Asia, Europe, Oceania, the Americas) and the host country. The remaining teams will be decided by a 12-nation, two pool qualifying tournament which should lead to a probable six or seven places for qualifiers.

Two scenarios are possible for the womens competition. In an eight-team Olympic competition, only the host country and the Olympic gold medal holders will qualify automatically. The Olympic Qualifying tournament would then -- like the men -- be a 12- nation, two-pool tournament, and a possible six or seven places would be available. In the case of Sydney, seven places would be available as Australia are both host and Olympic champions.

In a 10-team womens Olympic competition, automatic qualification would be given to the host country, the Olympic gold medal holders and the winners of the continental qualifying tournaments. The Olympic Qualifying tournament would see eight teams competing in one pool for a possible four or five places as Australia are both the hosts and gold medal holders. It is up to the International Olympic Committee to decide whether the womens competition should include eight or 10 teams.

The changes to the qualification system, recommended by the FIH Competitions Committee, were reviewed and approved by the FIH Executive Board during its May meeting in Brussels.