Sunday, 6th May 2012, Kakamigahara, Japan, the final of the Men’s Olympic Qualifier. Remember that date because it heralds a notable day in hockey history.
It is the day a member nation of the FIH saw its Men’s team join their female counterparts in the 2012 London Olympic hockey line up after a thrilling final in the very last Olympic Qualifier.
So what is so remarkable about this?
According to my information it is the first time in the history of hockey’s participation in the Olympics, over 104 years that teams had to qualify twice not only to satisfy the FIH/IOC agreement on the Olympic Qualification System, accepted by the world of hockey and all but one or two National Olympic Committees.
This of course raises a number of questions. Is it fair and justified for a NOC to create its own qualifying criteria notwithstanding the agreement between the IOC and International (Sports) Federations?
What does this do to the qualifying process within the IFs-in this case the FIH?
How does it affect other National Associations and Continental Federations in terms of their qualification processes?
If you are made to qualify twice what financial and other support can you reasonably expect from your NOC?
Given the massive costs of preparation, travel and accommodation, as well as salaries to professional personnel, can the average National Association afford “double qualification”?
Will these massive costs limit or curtail other vital developmental programmes within the NA?
These are all very relevant questions that will be debated within the FIH, Continental Federations and National Associations faced with the possibility of this occurring in the next Olympic cycle – in the build up to Rio.
However, against the backdrop of this battery of questions one must warmly congratulate the South African Men’s and Women’s teams for their stunning wins in the Olympic Qualifiers in New Delhi and Kakamigahara where they beat both the host nations in very pressurised situations.
This is a true case of an exhausting Odyssey in search of the Holy Grail!
Victory will be sweet but one’s heart goes out to the Indian women’s team, the Japanese men’s team and those other Olympic aspirants who were desperately close to a sporting dream competing in an Olympic Games – a competition and environment like no other in sport!
The views in this column are those of the author do not necassarily reflect the opinions of the FIH
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