Olympics Sports >> Water polo

Water polo


  • 1 men's tournament
  • 1 women's tournament


  • Men's tournament: 2 groups of 6 teams. The winner of each group qualifies directly for the semi-finals. The 2nd and 3rd placed teams from each group play off (A2 vs B3 etc) for the remaining two semi-final places. Semi winners play-off for gold in the final, while the losers contest the bronze medal.
  • Women's tournament: 2 groups of 4 teams. The winner of each group qualifies directly for the semi-finals. The 2nd and 3rd placed teams play-off (A2 vs B3 etc) for the remaining semi-final places. Semi-final winners then play for the gold medal and the losers the bronze.


Mid 19th century

A ball game played in the water, the "waterderby", is practised in Great Britain.


William Wilson devises the rules for "water base-ball".


The number of players increases from 3 to 9 per team.


The game takes the name of "water handball".


The first rules of the game are established.


Water polo makes its Olympic debut at the Games in Paris. Great Britain win the gold medal


Johnny Weissmuller, the future big screen Tarzan, wins the bronze medal in water polo to complement his gold medals in the 100m, 400m and 4x200m freestyle.


Hungary win the first of eight Olympic titles in Los Angeles.

December 6, 1956

A month and two days after the invasion of Hungary by the USSR, the Hungarian and Soviet players meet in Olympic competition during the Melbourne Games. The match descends into violent anarchy and the referee is forced to abandon while Hungary lead 4-0. Hungary are declared winners. Police have to intervene to stop the 5500 spectators from attacking the Soviet team.


In Belgrade, Hungary win the first men's world championships.


The first women's world championships are held, with Australia claiming victory.


A century after the men's first Olympic competition, women make their Olympic debut in Sydney.


Dezso Gyarmati (Hungary)

Medal collector. Three Olympic titles in 1952, 1956 and 1964 as well as silver in 1948 and bronze in 1960. The most decorated medalist in the sports Olympic history. The symbol of Hungarian domination.

Manuel Estiarte (Spain)

Spanish hero. Olympic champion in 1996, silver medalist in 1992 and world champion in 1998. Also runner-up at world championships in 1991 and 1994. Winner of 5 European Cups and widely regarded as one of the greatest players of all time.

Francesco Attolico (Italy)

The great barrier. Olympic gold medalist in 1992, bronze medalist in 1996 and world champion in 1994. Twice European champion in 1993 and 1995. One of the great goalkeepers of the sport.

Copyright 2008 Agence France-Presse.


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