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Summer Olympics Handball: 10 Rules Every Fan Should Know

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Summer Olympics Handball: 10 Rules Every Fan Should Know
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U.S. and South Korean players vie for the ball in front of the Korean goal during team handball match …

Per the official website of the 2012 London Olympic Summer Games, the handball events will take place between Saturday, July 28 and Sunday, Aug. 12. Both the men's and women's handball competitions will consist of 12 teams who will compete for gold, silver, and bronze medals.

During a handball game, players move the ball up and down the court for two 30-minute halves with the intent of getting the ball past the opposing team's goalie. Athletes cannot touch the ball with their feet; they must either dribble the ball with their hands or pass it to a teammate in order to move the ball down the court.

At the 2012 London Olympics, the handball competitions will rely on the rules and regulations promulgated by the International Handball Federation (IHF), which is the sport's governing body.

Here are 10 rules that fans need to know:

The Ball: A game ball "must be spherical" and cannot be "shiny or slippery." For a men's handball event, it must have a circumference of 58 to 60 centimeters (22.8 to 23.6 inches). Women's competitions utilize balls that are 54 to 56 centimeters (21.25 to 22.04 inches) in circumference.

The Court: The handball court must be 40 meters (43.74 yards) long and 20 meters (21.87 yards) wide. It contains two goalposts, one at each end.

The Goal Area: It is an area surrounding the goal that only the goalie is allowed to enter. Opposing players have to throw the ball at the net from outside this circle, though, as the London Olympics' site notes, they can cross into the goal area while in the act of shooting.

Teams: Squads are composed of 14 players. Seven of these athletes, six court players and one goalie, can be on the court at any one time.

Three Seconds or Three Steps: A player can only hold a ball for three seconds without either dribbling it or passing it to a teammate. Additionally, he or she can only take three steps with the ball before having to bounce it on the ground or pass it.

Holding: A player cannot "hold an opponent, even if he [or she] remains free to continue play."

Physical Contact: A player can set a pick or otherwise obstruct an opponent's movements. However, his or her actions must be passive. An athlete cannot "run into or jump into an opponent," nor can he or she "block the opponent with "arms, hand[s], legs," or elbows.

Illegal Interference: If a defensive player performs an illegal action that prevents the opposing team from taking advantage of a clear goal scoring opportunity, the referee will award the opposing team a penalty throw.

Penalty Throw: Per the 2012 Olympics' website, the player taking the penalty throw stands seven meters (22.97 feet) from the goalpost and has "a … shot at goal defended only by the goalkeeper."

Two Minute Suspension: A player who commits an egregious foul or receives two warnings may be removed from the court for two minutes. Additionally, a squad that has received three warnings will lose one of its players for two minutes. The athlete cannot be replaced and the team plays a person down for that period of time.

More from this contributor:

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Summer Olympics Synchronized Swimming: 10 Terms Every Fan Should Know

Summer Olympics Synchronized Swimming: 10 Rules Every Fan Should Know

The author is a freelance writer who happens to be an avid sports fan. He is not affiliated with any Olympic organizations or handball teams.

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