Water Polo Events at the 2012 London Summer Olympics

Water Polo Events at the 2012 London Summer Olympics

The water polo competition at the London 2012 Olympic Games will take place from July 29 to August 12 at the Olympic Park Water Polo Arena. Up to 12 countries can join one men’s team and eight countries can join one women’s team.
To the uninitiated observer, Olympic water polo looks like what you might get if you combined volleyball, basketball, soccer, handball, and simultaneous swimming in one game. (Unlike the terrestrial version of polo, there are no shared horses.) Men’s water polo has been a part of modern Olympic competition since the 1900 Paris Olympics and was one of the first team sports at the Olympic Games. Women’s water polo was introduced 100 years later at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney.
Developed in Great Britain in the 19th century and directly rooted in rugby, water polo was initially known as “water polo”. Because it requires a variety of sports skills, water polo is a very challenging team sport, and its players are among the best. For example, the game is played in at least 6 feet of water and unless you are a goalkeeper, you will never be allowed to stand at the bottom. Thus, the players are in constant motion and trample the water even when they are not holding the ball. The average game requires about 3 kilometers of swimming!
A team of six field players and one goalkeeper may be in the water at a time. The team works together to move the ball (about the size of a volleyball) down the field and into the net to score points, similar to soccer or hockey but with hands rather than feet or sticks. To make the game more challenging, players can only touch the ball with one hand at a time (except for the goalkeeper). The goalkeeper is also the only player allowed to stand at the bottom of the pond (assuming it is shallow enough).
Play begins with a swim: each team begins with two players from each team jumping into the water and swimming to the middle in an attempt to control the ball that the referee drops into the pool (like a jump ball in basketball). As in basketball too, the ball must keep moving and cannot be held in one place for long. Players advance the ball down the court by swimming with it in front of them or passing it to a teammate.
The game consists of four periods; In Olympic water polo, the duration of each period is 8 minutes. The team with the most points at the end of the match wins. If the score is even, two additional 3-minute periods are played. If that is not enough to break a tie, then a penalty shootout determines the winner.
Other than the goalkeeper, players do not play a particular position during the match. Instead, each player assumes whatever position is needed at the moment. The seven positions for each team include:

  • The center or group of holes (1) directs the team’s strategy from the center of the active field of play
  • The wings (2) play the front third of the court, similar to a basketball striker
  • Flats or drivers (2) help move the ball down and cover the midfield
  • Point (1) is placed away from the goal and helps the goalkeeper defend the field
  • The goalkeeper (1) defends his team’s net and blocks shots directed at the goal to prevent the other team from scoring.

To keep track of who’s who, players on the home team usually wear dark blue or black numbered hats, while visitors wear white numbered hats. The goalkeepers of both teams wear red “No. 1” hats. (Some color variations may be allowed.) These hats also protect players’ heads and ears.
Water polo plays tend to be very aggressive. Fouls, penalties and expulsions are common. If a player makes a mistake, he must give up the ball. A more aggressive mistake could result in a short 20-second expulsion. A player can be ejected up to three times before being ejected for the rest of the game. If any player’s foul is deemed brutal, like punching another player, the player will be ejected immediately for the duration of the game.
For the 2012 Olympic Games in London, the men’s court is 20 meters wide and 30 meters long; The woman is 20 meters wide and 25 meters long. The water depth is two metres. Each target is 90cm high and 3m wide.