IOC approves 10 women's teams for Sydney
Continental champions to qualify for Olympics due to expansion of the women's competition ?? Continental championships in women's hockey now carry even greater significance due to the recent expansion of the women's Olympic competition. The Interna- tional Olympic Committee infor- med the FIH in early December of its decision to expand the field for the women's Olympic competition from eight to 10, beginning with the Sydney games. Consequently, the FIH has confirmed the new Olympic qualifying procedure for the women's competition, which includes automatic qualification for winners of continental quali- fying tournaments.

The other automatic Olympic qua- lifiers will be the host country and the current Olympic gold meda- lists. Previously, the only auto- matic qualifiers were the host, Olympic champions and World Cup Champions. World champions are no longer automatic qualifiers.

The Olympic qualifying tourna- ment for Sydney (date and location still to be decided) will see eight- teams competing in a round robin format for a possible four or five places (depending on whether Australia, who are both hosts and Olympic Gold medalists, win their continental qualifier). Participa- {w=93%h}tion in the Olympic qualifying tour- nament, other than for the host, will be based on rankings in the prece- ding World Cup, and if needed, World Cup Qualifiers and Prelimi- naries. The new system had been previously decided by the FIH Council in the event the IOC gave a favourble response to the FIH's request for more women's teams.

In a letter to FIH President Juan Angel Calzado, IOC Sports Director Gilbert Felli stated `We have pleasure in informing you that the IOC Executive Board at its meeting held in Cancun on 15th November 1996, accepted your request to increase the number of women's teams from 8 to 10, with effect from the Games of the XXVII Olympiad, Sydney 2000.'

`This is wonderful news for the development of women's hockey worldwide and my gratitude goes to the IOC for its support and fore- sight,' said FIH President, Juan Angel Calzado. `Great credit for this achievement must be given to my predecessor, Etienne Glichitch, as well as to Hon. Secretary Gene- ral, Mrs. van Breda Vriesman, for their persistent promotion of wo- men's hockey. I am also pleased | that the decision comes early in my tenure as FIH President, as the de- velopment of women's hockey is high on my agenda.'

The Olympic hockey competition for women was introduced with a six-team tournament in Moscow in 1980 and was expanded to include eight teams for the Seoul Olympics in 1988.