Summer Olympics Handball: A History

Abstract: The 2012 London Summer Olympic Games will feature mens’ and women’s handball competitions, which will take place between July 28 and August 12. This article provides fans with a brief overview of handball's Olympic history.

The 2012 London Summer Olympic Games are almost here and handball will be among the featured sports.

About the Sport
The Beijing National Indoor Stadium - 2008 Olympics (1)

According to its official website, the 2012 London Summer Olympics will feature men's and women's handball tournaments. Both the men's and women's events boast 12 team fields. Each of the handball teams that are competing in the London Summer Olympics contain 14 athletes, seven of which will be on the court at any one time.

During the games, squads move the ball up and down the court for "two 30-minute halves" with the intent of getting the ball past the opposing team's goalie. Athletes cannot touch the ball with their feet; they must either dribble the ball with their hands or pass it to a teammate in order to move the ball down the court. The games tend to be fast paced, high scoring affairs. "It is not uncommon to see [two teams score] 50 goals or more in a single match."

History as an Olympic Sport

Per the International Olympic Committee's official website, the sport "was first played in Scandinavia and Germany" in the late 1800s. An outdoor version of handball, which pitted 11-person teams against one another, debuted at the 1936 Berlin Summer Olympics. The sport was removed from the Olympics' lineup after the Berlin Games. Between 1936 and 1972, handball only appeared on the Olympic roster of games once, at the 1952 Helsinki (Finland) Summer Games, when it was included as a demonstration (non-medal) sport.

As noted by the 2012 London Olympics' website, the modern, indoor version of handball was added to the 1972 Munich Summer Games as a men's medal sport. Women's handball debuted at the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal, Canada. "Handball has [been] featured at every Olympic Games since."

Medal Winners

Per NBC, the Soviet Union is the overall leader with regards to Olympic handball medals. Before its collapse in the 1990s, the U.S.S.R. had collected five golds, one silver, and two bronzes, which were split equally between its men's and women's teams. Since the Soviet Union's breakup, Russia has snagged three Olympic medals. South Korea is second overall with seven medals, its women's squads having earned six of them. No team from the United States has ever medaled in this event.

At the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics, France snagged the gold in men's handball with Iceland taking home the silver, and Spain coming away with the bronze. Norway beat Russia to claim the gold medal in the women's competition. South Korea took home the bronze medal.

Future of Handball at the Olympics

Handball has been a staple of the Summer Olympics since 1972. Per a Reuters article, handball is "the most popular team sport for women in Europe." Additionally, the head of the 2012 London Summer Olympics was optimistic about the sport's ability to gain even more followers over the next few years. Given that fact, handball enthusiasts probably do not have to worry about their sport being removed from the Olympics' roster of games anytime soon.

1. Photographer: Doma-w
    Date: August 22, 2008
    Title/Description: The Beijing National Indoor Stadium prepared for the final handball matches of the
                               2008 Summer Olympics
    Location/Permission: Wikimedia Commons - GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2
    (click on the title or the caption to see the photo, credits, and permissions).

-- Anthony Hopper

#sports #Olympics #SummerGames #handball #history #sports #sportshistory

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