Olympics 2012: a beginner’s guide to hockey

A whistle-stop tour of the rules, history and top contenders for the men's and women's titles

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* Victorian politician Lord Lyttelton claimed hockey was “one of the most elegant and gentlemanlike exercises there is, being susceptible of very graceful attitudes and requiring great speed of foot”. 

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* From 1928, when the sport secured a permanent berth at the Games, hockey was dominated by India, but the switch from grass to Astroturf in the mid-70s saw Australia and Europe emerge. 

* A few basics: there’s no using the legs, hands or feet to move the ball (sticks only), there’s no offside rule, goalies can use all their limbs when inside the scoring circle, and outfield players can only score if they shoot inside the circle.

* Australia are the men’s world champions and the team to beat. The challenge will come primarily from the Germans and the Dutch.

* In the women’s it’s a similar storywith Holland and Australia the leaders. GB have been improving and are in with a chance of a medal in both. David Goldblatt

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Hockey: 8.30am BBC Olympics 15; 7.00pm BBC Olympics 7