Hockey has come a long way since it first debuted as an Olympic sport in 1908. Originally, Olympic matches were played on grass where the heavy turf made the game quite slow. This changed with the introduction of artificial turf in the 1970s. The game suddenly became quicker, more skilful and exciting with new techniques being developed such as the Indian dribble.
Teams are placed into two pools of six for the men and five for the women. Each team plays the other teams in that pool. The top two teams in each pool proceed to the semi-finals. The remaining teams play classification matches for fifth place and lower. Semi-final winners play for the gold and silver medals. Semi-final losers play for the bronze.
Hockey for men first appeared on the Olympic programme in 1908, was absent until 1920, then has remained on the programme ever since. In 1980, women’s hockey was first introduced as an Olympic sport. The women originally competed in an 8-team tournament but this was increased to ten from 1996.
India won all six Olympic gold medals and 30 consecutive games from 1928 to 1956. Although they continued to perform well, their Olympic dominance came to an end with the switch to synthetic surfaces.