The men's gold medal game was the tip of the iceberg for hockey in London
The men's gold medal game was the tip of the iceberg for hockey in London
(Photo: Frank Uijlenbroek)

No doubt this was the enduring feeling of most people who thoroughly enjoyed the London 2012 Olympics and didn’t want it to end – except maybe for the exhausted volunteers and FIH Staff.

It was a fabulous Games, superbly organised and with great spirit.  The volunteers were outstanding and  constant  applause for their efforts interrupted Lord Sebastian Coe’s speech at the Closing Ceremony.

The hockey competition was excellent with the Stadium generally packed to capacity.  There is no doubt hockey benefits at an Olympic Games in a country where there has been a long established hockey “culture”.  The Sydney and London Games in recent times have played before appreciative crowds with good knowledge of hockey.  The organisational backing of Great Britain Hockey/Hockey England undoubtedly contributed to the quality and atmosphere of the hockey competition.

Congratulations to The Netherlands Women’s Team and German Men’s Team for winning the gold medals, as well as the other medallists.

However, there were many moments or cameos that fascinated hockey lovers:

  • The silky skills of Luciana Aymar as she glided past stranded defenders.  But the bitter sweet loss to The Netherlands in the final on her birthday and probably in her last international match.  What a fabulous ambassador and role model for hockey!
  • The superb semi-final display by New Zealand’s valiant women’s team against The Netherlands.  Mark Hager, the New Zealand Coach, had his tactics rolled out to near perfection as an unusually flustered Dutch team were outplayed for large chunks of the match, only to prevail in the first shoot out in Olympic hockey history.  The New Zealand men have also improved their ratings and impressed with their resilience.
  • The magnificent performance of the Belgium men’s team in ending 5th on the back of excellent administration, a visionary high performance programme and fine coaching.
  •  Germany’s men’s amazing ability to manufacture results and reach the semi-final not playing their best hockey but then lift themselves to beat Australia 4 – 2 and then a rampant young Netherlands team 2- 1 in the final. (The Dutch coming off a 9 – 2 semi-final win over Great Britain).  There is no better side in world hockey than Germany in defending a lead.  They generally lock the door and throw the key away!
  • The emergence of an exciting group of young Netherlands players balanced by some ‘vintage wine’, like Teun de Nooijer.  Another great player and ambassador for the game with amazing vision and a couple of gold medals plus at least one silver to show for it.  We pay warm tribute to him on his retirement.
  •  India’s last place finish in the men’s competition which will not help this troubled hockey giant find easy resolution of their debilitating internal hockey politics – at grave cost to the players and the talent that abounds in that remarkable nation.
  • Great Britain’s intensive programme yielded a bronze medal for their women and a fourth place for their men as they boosted their world rankings.  They can be well pleased.

Some of the areas where the hockey competition can improve are not entirely within the FIH’s control at present such as TV cameramen with hockey experience.  The television umpire referral needs to be refined.  The scoreboard and big screen/s need to provide more information and be more inter-active with the spectators.

Having said all that my view is that given the success of the hockey tournament and the exciting hockey played I would be surprised if we have not strengthened our position in the Olympic sporting family.

 

Steve Jaspan is Chair of the FIH High Performance and Coaching Advisory Panel and contributes a monthly column to the FIH website, Viewpoint.