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Ivan Laing scoring the first goal in Olympic hockey (1908). Photo credit: The Hockey Museum

Hockey at the Olympic Games – a brief history

June 22, 2021

With just over one month to go until the start of Tokyo 2020, we provide a snapshot summary of the history of hockey at the Olympic Games, a saga that began well over a century ago.

The inaugural Olympic Hockey Competition for men was held in London in 1908 with England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales competing separately. With the addition of Germany and France, the competition ran with six teams. After having made its first appearance at the London Games, hockey was subsequently dropped from the 1912 Stockholm Games after host nations were granted control over ‘optional sports’. It reappeared in 1920 in Antwerp after pressure from Belgian hockey advocates before being omitted again in Paris in 1924.

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Hockey final between England and Ireland at the 1908 Olympic Games. Photo credit: The Hockey Museum

The formation of the International Hockey Federation (FIH) in 1924 was not soon enough for the Paris Olympics but it did grant hockey re-entry in Amsterdam in 1928. Hockey has been on the programme ever since, with women's hockey included for the first time in Moscow in 1980. At the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games, hockey celebrated 100years as an Olympic sport, while at London 2012, hockey was the third biggest sport in terms of ticket sales with over 630,000 sold. The Olympics is the ultimate hockey competition, with the Olympic gold medal being the most coveted prize in the sport.

India is the most successful country with eight Olympic gold medals, all of which were won by the men's team between 1928 and 1980. Pakistan, India’s great rivals, also enjoyed incredible success, winning three golds, three silvers and two bronze medals between 1956 and 1976.

In more recent years, the men's and women's teams of Australia, the Netherlands, Germany, Great Britain and Argentina have all made big impressions. Between 1996 and 2012, the Netherlands men contested four out of the five Olympic finals played during that period, winning gold at Atlanta 1996 and Sydney 2000. The Dutch women have also enjoyed considerable success, competing in every final from 2004 to 2016 and winning gold at Beijing 2008 and London 2012, adding to the title they claimed in 1984.

Germany and Australia have also left indelible marks on Olympic hockey, with Germany winning five golds (men: 1972, 1992, 2000 & 2012 / women: 2004) and Australia four (women 1988, 1996 & 2000 / men: 2004).

Hockey has also seen its fair share of triumphs by the so-called underdogs. New Zealand men stunned the world to take gold at Montreal 1976, with Zimbabwe women creating shockwaves by winning at Moscow 1980 and Spain’s women making home advantage count to storm to gold at Barcelona 1992.

The most recent edition, Rio 2016, proved to be another year with unexpected winners, with Argentina men and Great Britain women – two teams ranked 7th in the world going into the competition – creating new chapters in hockey’s history books by snatching Olympic golds for the first time.

While Argentina men and Great Britain women will be determined to defend their respective Olympic titles, they will be challenged every step of the way by the world’s finest teams on the planet’s greatest sporting stage.

The hockey competitions at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 will take place from Saturday 24 July to Friday 6 August 2021. Both the men’s and women’s competitions feature 12 teams, split into two pools of six ahead of quarter-finals, semi-finals and medal matches.

For more information about the hockey competitions at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, visit https://tokyo2020.org/en/sports/hockey/


Hockey at the Olympic Games – a summary

All Time Olympic Placements - Men

Rio de Janeiro 2016: 
1: Argentina, 2: Belgium, 3: Germany, 4: Netherlands, 5: Spain, 6: Australia, 7: New Zealand, 8: India, 9: Great Britain, 10: Ireland, 11: Canada, 12: Brazil

London 2012:
 1. Germany, 2. Netherlands, 3. Australia, 4. Great Britain, 5. Belgium, 6. Spain, 7. Pakistan, 8. Korea, 9. New Zealand, 10. Argentina, 11. South Africa, 12. India

Beijing 2008: 1. Germany, 2. Spain, 3. Australia, 4. Netherlands, 5. Great Britain, 6. Korea, 7. New Zealand 8. Pakistan, 9. Belgium, 10. Canada, 11. China, 12. South Africa

Athens 2004: 1. Australia, 2. Netherlands, 3. Germany, 4. Spain, 5. Pakistan, 6. New Zealand, 7. India, 8. Korea, 9. Great Britain, 10. South Africa, 11. Argentina, 12. Egypt

Sydney 2000: 1. Netherlands, 2. Korea, 3. Australia, 4. Pakistan, 5. Germany, 6. Great Britain, 7. India, 8. Argentina, 9. Spain, 10. Canada, 11. Malaysia, 12. Poland

Atlanta 1996: 1. Netherlands, 2. Spain, 3. Australia, 4. Germany, 5. Korea, 6. Pakistan, 7. Great Britain, 8. India, 9. Argentina, 10. South Africa, 11. Malaysia, 12. United States

Barcelona 1992: 1. Germany, 2. Australia, 3. Pakistan, 4. Netherlands, 5. Spain, 6. Great Britain, 7. India, 8. New Zealand, 9. Malaysia, 10. CIS (Russia), 11. Argentina, 12. Egypt

Seoul 1988: 1. Great Britain, 2. W. Germany, 3. Netherlands, 4. Australia, 5. Pakistan, 6. India, 7. Soviet Union, 8. Argentina, 9. Spain, 10. Korea, 11. Canada, 12. Kenya

Los Angeles 1984: 1. Pakistan, 2. W. Germany, 3. Great Britain, 4. Australia, 5. India, 6. Netherlands, 7. New Zealand, 8. Spain, 9. Kenya, 10. Malaysia, 11. United States

Moscow 1980: 1. India, 2. Spain, 3. Soviet Union, 4. Poland, 5. Cuba, 6. Tanzania

Montreal 1976: 1. New Zealand, 2. Australia, 3. Pakistan, 4. Netherlands, 5. W. Germany, 6. Spain, 7. India, 8. Malaysia, 9. Belgium, 10. Canada, 11. Argentina

Munich 1972: 1. W. Germany, 2. Pakistan, 3. India, 4. Netherlands 5. Australia, 6. Great Britain, 7. Spain, 8. Malaysia, 9. New Zealand, 10. Belgium, 11. Poland, 12. France, 13. Kenya, 14. Argentina, 15. Uganda, 16. Mexico

Mexico City 1968: 1. Pakistan, 2. Australia, 3. India, 4. W. Germany, 5. Netherlands, 6. Spain, 7. New Zealand, 8. Kenya, 9. Belgium, 10. France, 11. E. Germany, 12. Great Britain, 12. Japan, 14. Argentina, 15. Malaysia, 16. Mexico

Tokyo 1964: 1. India, 2. Pakistan, 3. Australia, 4. Spain, 5. E. Germany, 6. Kenya

Rome 1960: 1. Pakistan, 2. India, 3. Spain, 4. Great Britain, 5. New Zealand, 6. Australia, 7. W. Germany, 8. Kenya, 9. Netherlands 10. France, 11. Belgium, 12. Poland, 13. Italy, 14. Japan, 15. Switzerland, 16. Denmark

Melbourne 1956: 1. India, 2. Pakistan, 3. W. Germany, 4. Great Britain, 5. Australia, 6. New Zealand, 7. Belgium, 8. Singapore, 9. Malaysia, 10. Kenya, 11. Afghanistan, 12. United States

Helsinki 1952: 1. India, 2. Netherlands, 3. Great Britain, 4. Pakistan, 5. W. Germany, 6. Poland, 7. Austria, 8. Switzerland

London 1948: 1. India, 2. Great Britain, 3. Netherlands, 4. Pakistan

Berlin 1936: 1. India, 2. Germany, 3. Netherlands, 4. France, 5. Switzerland, 6. Afghanistan, 7. Japan, 8. Hungary, 9. Belgium, 10. Denmark, 11. United States

Los Angeles 1932: 1. India, 2. Japan, 3. United States

Amsterdam 1928: 1. India, 2. Netherlands, 3. Germany, 4. Belgium

Antwerp 1920: 1. Great Britain, 2. Denmark, 3. Belgium, 4. France

London 1908: 1. England, 2. Ireland, 3. Wales, 4. Scotland 5. Germany, 6. France

All-time Olympic Placements - Women

Rio de Janeiro 2016: 1: Great Britain, 2: Netherlands, 3: Germany, 4: New Zealand, 5: United States, 6: Australia, 7: Argentina, 8: Spain, 9: China, 10, Japan, 11: Korea, 12: India

London 2012: 1: Netherlands, 2: Argentina, 3: Great Britain, 4: New Zealand, 5: Australia, 6: China, 7: Germany, 8: Korea, 9: Japan, 10: South Africa, 11: Belgium, 12: United States



Beijing 2008: 1: Netherlands, 2: China, 3: Argentina, 4: Germany, 5: Australia, 6: Great Britain, 7: Spain, 8: United States, 9: Korea, 10: Japan, 11: South Africa, 12: New Zealand



Athens 2004: 1: Germany, 2: Netherlands, 3: Argentina, 4: China, 5: Australia, 6: New Zealand, 7: Korea, 8: Japan, 9: South Africa, 10: Spain



Sydney 2000: 1: Australia, 2: Argentina, 3: Netherlands, 4: Spain, 5: China, 6: New Zealand, 7: Germany, 8: Great Britain, 9: Korea, 10: South Africa



Atlanta 1996: 1: Australia, 2: Korea, 3: Netherlands, 4: Great Britain, 5: United States, 6: Germany, 7: Argentina, 8: Spain



Barcelona 1992: 1: Spain, 2: Germany, 3: Great Britain, 4: Korea, 5: Australia, 6: Netherlands, 7: Canada, 8: New Zealand



Seoul 1988: 1: Australia, 2: Korea, 3: Netherlands, 4: Great Britain, 5: West Germany, 6: Canada, 7: Argentina, 8: United States



Los Angeles 1984: 1: Netherlands, 2: West Germany, 3: United States, 4: Australia, 5: Canada, 6: New Zealand



Moscow1980: 1: Zimbabwe, 2: Czechoslovakia, 3: Soviet Union, 4: India, 5: Austria, 6: Poland

All-Time Olympic Finals – Men

Rio de Janeiro 2016: Belgium 2-4 Argentina
London 2012:
 Germany 2-1 Netherlands

Beijing 2008: Germany 1-0 Spain

Athens 2004: Netherlands 1-2 Australia (aet)

Sydney 2000: Korea 3-3 Netherlands (aps 4-5)

Atlanta 1996: Spain 1-3 Netherlands

Barcelona 1992: Germany 2-1 Australia

Seoul 1988: Great Britain 3-1 West Germany

Los Angeles 1984: Pakistan 2-1 West Germany (aet)

Moscow 1980: India 4-3 Spain

Montreal 1976: New Zealand 1-0 Australia

Munich 1972: West Germany 1-0 Pakistan

Mexico City 1968: Pakistan 2-1 Australia

Tokyo 1964: Pakistan 0-1 India

Rome 1960: Pakistan 1-0 India

Melbourne 1956: India 1-0 Pakistan

Helsinki 1952: India 6-1 Netherlands

London 1948: India 4-0 Great Britain

Berlin 1936: India 8-1 Germany

Los Angeles 1932: No final – Round Robin
Amsterdam 1928:
 India 3-0 Netherlands

Antwerp 1920: No final – Round Robin
London 1908:
 Great Britain (ENG) 8-1 Great Britain (IRL)

All-Time Olympic Finals - Women

Rio de Janeiro 2016: Netherlands 3-3 Great Britain (aso 0-2)
London 2012:
 Netherlands 2-0 Argentina
Beijing 2008: China 0-2 Netherlands
Athens 2004: Netherlands 1-2 Germany
Sydney 2000: Argentina 1-3 Australia
Atlanta 1996: Australia 3-1 Korea
Barcelona 1992: Spain 2-1 Germany (aet)
Seoul 1988: Australia 2-0 Korea
Los Angeles 1984: No final – Round Robin
Moscow 1980: No final – Round Robin

Legend: aps - after penalty strokes. aet - after extra time. aso – after shoot-out.

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