Olympic water polo has been around since the 1900 Olympic Games. Though the tournament has changed a bit throughout the years, the sport itself has been one of the most frequently contested of the Olympic Games.
Water polo at the 2012 Olympic Games will feature both a men's and a women's tournament. The men's tournament will be played between 12 teams, while eight teams will compete in the women's tournament. Each team is made up of 12 players, though only seven players can be on the pitch at a time. Each match consist of four 8-minute quarters, and players are not allowed to touch the bottom of the pool at all during the game.
Olympic Water Polo: How Countries Qualify for the Water Polo Tournament
The 20 teams scheduled to compete at the 2012 Olympic Games have qualified for the tournament in several different ways. Generally, the host country is automatically given an entry into both the men's and women's tournaments. The remaining teams compete at international tournaments throughout the year, and based on finishes, can earn Olympic berths.
For example, the top three men's teams at the 2011 FINA World Championships automatically qualified for the Olympic Games, while four additional men's and women's teams qualified based on performances at the 2012 World Qualification Tournament. Throughout the year, several other international tournaments serve the same function, as well.
Water Polo at the 2012 Olympic Games: Tournament Format
The tournament begins with round-robin play. Under this format, the men's teams are divided into two pools of six, while the women's teams are divided into two pools of four. Each team plays every other team, and points are awarded based on the final score of each game. The winner of each game earns two points, while one point is awarded to each team in the event of a draw. Zero points are awarded to the losing team.
The teams that earn the most points move forward in the tournament to play in a bracket-type tournament. The winners of the semifinal matches play for the gold medal, while the losers of the semifinal matches earn a spot in the bronze-medal match.
Water Polo Schedule at the 2012 Olympic Games
In London, the water polo tournaments are scheduled to be contested in the Water Polo Arena. The tournaments are scheduled to begin on July 29, 2012, and run through Aug. 12, 2012. The women's gold-medal game is set to be contested on Aug. 9, 2012, while the men's final game is set to be contested on Aug. 12, 2012.
Sandra Johnson is a longtime Olympic fan. While working for the United States Olympic Committee and living in the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo., Johnson had the opportunity to immerse herself in the Olympic Movement. Follow her on Twitter: @SandraJohnson46.
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