images of Hockey

Olympic Sports


Hockey demands speed, stamina and a mastery of intricate hand-eye coordination. Played by teams of 11 on an outdoor pitch, the sport has long been a popular feature of the Games programme.


Hockey players use hook-shaped sticks to advance a hard ball towards their opponents' goal. Matches are played over four 15-minute quarters (for a total of 60 minutes), after which the team with the most goals wins.

Each team is made up of attackers, midfielders and defenders plus a goalkeeper, with rolling substitutions permitted. Other than the goalkeepers, no players are allowed to touch the ball with their hands or feet; instead, they control the ball, which is about the size of a baseball but slightly lighter, using the flat side of their sticks.

A hockey pitch is 91.4m long and 55m wide, with goals at each end that are smaller than those in Football. Each goal is surrounded by a D-shaped shooting circle. To take a shot on goal, players must be inside their opponents' shooting circle.

Another feature of the game is the absence of offside. When this was done away with in a revision to the sport's rules in 1996, the result was even faster gameplay and more goals.

Two umpires control the match. They each monitor half the pitch and work together on decisions in the middle. For certain fouls, usually in the shooting circle, teams are awarded a penalty corner, where a player pushes the ball out from the back line to team-mates waiting around the shooting circle. They can then take a shot on goal against only five defenders. At other times a penalty stroke is awarded, where one player takes a shot from the penalty spot, defended only by the goalkeeper.

International Federation: Fédération Internationale de Hockey (FIH)(Open in a new window)

Event Programme

  • 12-team tournament (Men/Women)


Looking beneath the surface

Hockey player

Hockey gets its name from the French word 'hocquet', which means shepherd's crook and refers to the shape of the players' stick. The sport is said to have originated among English cricketers who wanted a sport they could play during the winter, when the weather makes their own sport impossible.

After developing in England's public schools and clubs, the game spread to India, Pakistan, the countries of Africa, Australia and beyond. It is also popular in Europe, and the Netherlands and Germany are Hockey powerhouses.

Hockey became an official Olympic sport at the London 1908 Games, when six teams competed and England won the gold medal. The sport was then dropped from the programme, reappeared at Antwerp 1920 but was omitted again at Paris 1924. The formation of the Fédération Internationale de Hockey in 1924 was not soon enough for the Paris Games but it did grant hockey re-entry at Amsterdam 1928. Hockey has been on the programme ever since, with a women's competition added at Moscow 1980.

Until the 1970s, hockey was always played on grass. However, top-level matches now take place on water-based, synthetic turf pitches, which allow the ball to roll more smoothly and quickly - indeed, the ball can reach speeds of up to 200 km/h. The first Olympic tournament played on artificial turf was at the Montreal 1976 Games. The transition to artificial turf has also seen levels of skill increase, greatly enhancing the sport for spectators.

At Tokyo 2020, both men's and women's Hockey competitions will begin with a preliminary phase before the strongest teams move into a knockout format.


Shooting for success

Hockey player

Reflecting the influence of the British Empire on the development of Hockey, India is the most successful country with eight Olympic gold medals. However, the last of these came in 1980 and recent years have seen the rise of the Netherlands, Australia, Great Britain and Germany.

The Netherlands men's team won gold medals at Atlanta 1996 and Sydney 2000 and have been beaten finalists twice subsequently, while that country's women claimed gold at Los Angeles 1984, Beijing 2008 and London 2012.

The Argentinian men's team opened a new chapter in the history of Hockey when they claimed their country's first ever Olympic gold medal in the sport at Rio 2016, after podium finishes for their women at four successive Games from Sydney 2000 to London 2012.

The challenge for Asian countries is to match the rise in standards elsewhere in the world.



Hockey umpires can penalize rule infringements with cards. A yellow card brings a suspension of at least five minutes while a red card, for the most serious offences, sees a player sent from the pitch. Umpires also have a third card - what colour is it?


A:A green card, which signifies a warning and requires the offending player to leave the pitch for two minutes.

As of 1 Dec. 2018

Competition Venues

  • Oi Hockey Stadium

Olympic Sports

Paralympic Sports