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Issue No. 9  February 2004

 Why Greece is a Special Case for Olympic Qualification

As you will probably be aware, the Court of Arbitration in Sports (CAS) is to decide on Greece’s right for its men’s team to participate as hosts at the Athens Olympics, following the Hellenic Hockey Federation’s (HHF) decision to appeal against FIH’s imposition of minimum qualification standards.

It is true that, should the Hellenic Hockey Federation fail in its appeal to CAS, hockey will be the only team sport at the Olympics where the host has no automatic right of qualification. However, a minimum standard for participation is vital for fairness in all team sports where one team’s performance directly affects the results of another, e.g. hockey, football, basketball, rather than where teams or individuals compete 'indirectly' against times or distances set by others.

Potentially in hockey, a strong team that meets an under-strength team late in the competition could have the chance to gain an unfair advantage in goal difference, if the weak team has allowed itself to become demoralised in earlier matches. This is very important in the hockey competition where round-robin results in only two pools will determine the semi-final participants.

In many of the other summer Olympic team sports, for example football, basketball, and volleyball, the Greek National Associations have already achieved an international standard of participation. In the cases of softball and baseball, significant efforts were being made to improve standards by the Greek national associations of those sports since the moment Greece was awarded the Games in 1997, with the Greek baseball side narrowly missing out on winning the European Cup last year.

Therefore in 2001, concerned with ensuring a fair competition, that there were no efforts being made to develop the standard of hockey in Greece and no training programme in place at that time for the national teams, the FIH agreed with IOC to set a minimum standard for the host’s participation.

The FIH had, in our opinion, made significant efforts to assist Greece in the areas of development and coaching, but the Greek authorities did not reciprocate these initiatives. What would normally be an early step in hockey development, the installation of a synthetic pitch, was not allowed to happen in Greece until 2002 and an internationally recognised coach not appointed until 2003. (Nonetheless, it should be noted that Azerbaijan qualified for the European Cup still without the use of a synthetic pitch.)

Greece failed to meet the minimum qualification standards for the Olympics, namely, either to qualify for the European Cup in 2003, or to beat Canada, the 12th qualified team of the Men’s Olympic Qualifier in a best of three play-off competition. The HHF withdrew its women’s team from the qualification process, for financial reasons and will not be pursuing qualification of the Greek women’s team at CAS.

Greece’s appeal to CAS will not be heard until after the Men’s Olympic Qualifier and it is very disappointing that we will not know if there are six or seven places up for grabs in Madrid. However, we do know that under FIH statutes, all parties must respect the CAS ruling and that the matter will at least be decided once and for all.

Els van Breda Vriesman


President's View - Els van Breda Vriesman

Editorial - Cathy Harris

Making Up the Numbers - Bruce Hamilton

Men's Olympic Qualifier Update - Hannah Cox

Hitting the High Spots - Sandeep Nakkai

The Return of the Pharoahs - Teo H. Loh

Going for Gold - Claire Middleton

Gill Clarke's Top 10 - Gill Clarke

Where There's a Will... - Jenny Morris

Spain and South Africa Come Out Top - Claire Middleton

Thumbs Up for Athens - Pat Rowley


Editor: Cathy Harris
Publication Co-ordinator: Hannah Cox
Photos: Dr. W. Sternberger
[email protected]

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