Handball is one of the 26 sports at the London 2012 Olympic Games.

Did you know?

A beach version of Handball, played on outdoor sand courts, is growing in popularity. Thousands of spectators attend the annual Beach Handball tournament on Weymouth Beach.
Penalty shoot-outs have been used to decide two Olympic Women’s finals – at the Atlanta 1996 and Athens 2004 Games, both won by Denmark.
Historically, the three most successful nations are Denmark, Korea and Russia in the Women’s and Russia, Yugoslavia and Sweden in the Men’s Olympic competitions. 
Shots at goal can reach speeds of 100km/h and it is common for more than 50 goals to be scored in a single match.
Handball has a big fan following in continental Europe, where crowds of 20,000 regularly show up to league matches. 

Key facts

Venue: Handball Arena (Preliminary rounds and women’s quarter-finals); Basketball Arena (Men’s quarter-finals, all semi-finals and finals)
Dates: Saturday 28 July – Sunday 12 August
Gold medals up for grabs: 2
Athletes: 336 (168 men, 168 women)

Handball: a history of the sport

Handball has elements of both football and basketball – but it’s probably older than both. There are references to a sport very similar to handball in ancient Greek literature.

The game was developed in Europe in the late 19th century, in Denmark, Sweden and Germany. Originally played as ‘field handball’ on a football pitch and 11-a-side, handball was based on the games of ‘Raffball’ and ‘Königsbergerball’.

An indoor seven-a-side version of the game was also very popular, with world championships taking place regularly since 1938 (men) and 1957 (women).

During the 1960s, despite numerous rule changes intended to make the 11-a-side game more attractive, the faster, seven-a-side indoor version of handball dominated. The last world championship for field handball was played in Austria in 1966.

Today, fast-moving, high-scoring matches make Handball one of the most popular Olympic sports.

For more information on the history of the sport, visit the IOC website.

Handball at the Games

The International Amateur Handball Federation (IAHF) was set up for the Amsterdam 1928 Olympic Games. One of the founding members was Avery Brundage (USA) who subsequently became an International Olympic Committee (IOC) Chairman.

Field handball was a demonstration sport at the Helsinki 1952 Olympic Games and became an Olympic sport in Berlin 1936, by which time the IAHF had 23 member countries.

As the popularity of the sport developed, the IOC decided in 1965 to re-introduce the sport into the Olympic programme for men in Munich 1972. The women’s Olympic debut was in Montreal, 1976. 

How the competition runs

In handball, two teams of seven players pass and dribble a small synthetic or leather ball using only their hands. The aim is to score a goal by throwing the ball past the defending goalkeeper in the other team’s goal. The team with the most goals wins. Handball matches are played on indoor courts by both men’s and women’s teams.

It has been said that handball is the fastest team ball sport. There is a great deal of physical contact and end-to-end action involving high jumps, powerful throws and spectacular agility. 

Jargon buster

  • Dribble: To move the ball by bouncing it on the floor.
  • Jump shot: A shot attempted while leaping.
  • Pivot: An attacking player who is usually found near  the opposition’s goal area.
  • Back: A player who shoots from the backcourt – usually tall, able to leap high and possessing a powerful shot.
  • Centre back or Playmaker: A midcourt player who directs the team’s attacking play.

Get involved

England Handball, Scotland Handball and the British Handball Association are always looking for new players. More information can also be found on the International Handball Federation website.

Handball competition at Beijing 2008

~ by superbowlnyc on February 17, 2011.

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