Wednesday, November 10, 2010


A row is brewing over a qualifying system for the London Olympics which critics claim is biased towards the sport's traditional power base.

Leading non-European nations, including Australia, New Zealand, United States and Canada, have become aware of a loophole in the Olympic qualifying system which will allow Europe to claim an extra quota place in both men's and women's competition at the 2012 Games, at the expense of the other regions.

The flaw in the criteria, which applied for the Beijing Olympics, has emerged because England (Britain at the Olympics) qualifies automatically as the host nation, but can also earn a quota place for Europe as one of the top nations on the rankings.

Hockey Australia has expressed its concern to the International Hockey Federation, while the Australian Olympic Committee has contacted the International Olympic Committee to bring the anomaly to its attention.

"We are asking the FIH to consider the continental rules and whether inequities do exist there," HA executive director Mark Anderson said.

AOC sports director Fiona de Jong said Australia had "engaged the support of other countries" to push for the rules to be amended.

"It's not just in the context of London. Any other country could be affected by the host nation status. Next time Europe could miss out, so they should fix it for the right reasons," de Jong said.

"The qualification system is supposed to be fair. You shouldn't be able to double-dip from Europe or anywhere else. It will [have an] impact on the quality of the Olympic tournament because you will not have the best nations there."

The current system, used for the Beijing Olympics, allocates the 12 places (each for men's and women's competition) along the following lines:

The host nation receives one place, eight places are allocated through the five continental championships (one place each, plus three extra quota places allocated according to the world rankings), and three places go to the winners of three Olympic qualification tournaments.

If the same system is in place for the London Olympics, England will qualify as host nation but the European federation will also use its high ranking (fourth in the men's, fifth in the women's) to claim an extra quota place for its continental championship. 

That would see Europe receive four quota places at the continental championships -- based on world rankings of second (Germany) third (The Netherlands), fourth (England) and fifth (Spain) -- leaving the other continents with one place each.