Updated: Mon, 19 Mar 2012 21:13:56 GMT | By pa.press.net

HOCKEY

Hockey has an illustrious Olympic history and the competition at London 2012 has extra significance due to the introduction of an unusual blue pitch.


A hockey stick and ball. (© Press Association)

A hockey stick and ball.

Hockey

Hockey has an illustrious Olympic history and the competition at London 2012 has extra significance due to the introduction of an unusual blue pitch.

Originally played on a grass surface, top-level field hockey has been played on a synthetic pitch since the 1970s, making for a faster and more exciting spectacle.

Artificial turf was first brought in at the Olympics in Montreal in 1976 and has been used at the Games ever since, but until now the playing surface has always been green to represent the grass-based roots of the sport.

However, for the first time in Olympic history, London 2012 sees the use of a state-of-the-art polyethylene fibre blue pitch, together with pink surrounds and a yellow ball.

While the colours match those on the Olympic logo, the reason behind the drastic change is actually more scientific and is designed to make following the ball easier for spectators both in the stadium and watching on television.

Men's field hockey has graced the Olympics since London 1908 and in the early years India were the dominant force - winning eight gold medals, including six consecutive first-placed finishes between 1928 and 1956.

In more recent times, the likes of Australia, Germany and the Netherlands have been the standout countries in both the men's and women's competitions - with the latter first staged at the Moscow 1980 Olympics and being won by Zimbabwe.

Hockey, which sees players use distinctive hooked wooden sticks, is played by teams of 10 outfield players and a goalkeeper. Games are split into two 35-minute halves, while extra-time and a penalty stroke competition are played in the event of a tie in the knockout stages of a tournament.

Both men's and women's competitions at London 2012 are split into group stages before the top two teams in each pool play-off for the medals.

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