Hockey fights for place at Rio 2016

October 19, 2012


rio 2016, 2016 olympic hockey
-Photo by AFP

SAO PAULO: The field hockey venue for the 2016 Games wouldn't fit at the Olympic Park as originally planned, so a solution was being worked on by Rio de Janeiro Olympic officials and the International Hockey Federation.    

The 2016 committee said detailed studies that were not needed when the bid book was created eventually showed that the Olympic Hockey Center could not be placed at the park, so it moved it to the Deodoro cluster, away from where most sports will be played and more distant from the Olympic Village.

The federation was upset that organizers couldn't keep their bid promise and said the relocation could marginalize the sport and make it harder to attract people's interest and fill the stands. Now both sides say they are working together to decide on an alternate venue.

The federation initially criticized organizers because the move came without a request for its input. It became aware of the change during an update report by the Rio committee in London.

Organizers said they would present their full explanation and detailed proposals for the new venue, and both sides met this week during a London 2012 debrief by the Association of Summer Olympic International Federations in Lausanne, Switzerland.

''The FIH had a positive meeting with Rio 2016 and we are looking at all of the various options,'' federation CEO Kelly Fairweather told The Associated Press in an email.

''Right now it is a work in progress.''

The press office of the Rio committee said on Friday that the meeting in Lausanne was productive and that the discussions got both parties closer to a solution that would please everyone.

Local officials wouldn't reveal details on the proposals made to the FIH.

But both sides had previously said that options could include having a new venue closer to the main games hub or even a smaller arena at the Olympic Park. The federation argued that maybe a smaller venue packed with fans would be more beneficial to the sport than a larger stadium empty.

The organizing committee proposed in its original bid book to construct field hockey stadiums seating 10,000 and 5,000 at the Olympic Park. In its updated report presented in London, the hockey center had moved to Deodoro, which is one of the four clusters where venues will be distributed across Rio de Janeiro.

Rio officials said the change was prompted by issues which came up during a more complete technical study of the area where the Olympic Park will be built. They said the study showed it wouldn't be possible to fit a venue that met all of the hockey federation's requirements.    Most of the sports, as well as the main media and broadcast centers, will be at the Olympic Park in the Barra da Tijuca neighborhood. The Deodoro zone will be home to sports such as equestrian, shooting, fencing, canoe and BMX cycling.

Field hockey was hugely successful at the Olympic Park in London, but that was thanks in part to Britain being a field hockey country and successful.

Rio organizers said that having the venue in Deodoro would be important for the games' legacy because a new hockey center at a permanent venue would help the sport grow in Brazil after the Olympics. The country has very little tradition in field hockey, a sport which is virtually unknown in the football mad country.

During the 2007 Pan American Games in Rio, field hockey was played in Deodoro.

There was no timetable on when a solution for the 2016 venue will be reached.