London 2012 - Great Britain Handball will play at London 2012
Great Britain will take part in both the men’s and women’s handball competitions at London 2012 after the British Olympic Association granted them host nation places.
The BOA have always insisted that while the majority of the 26 Olympic sports qualify for host nation places – basketball being the most notable exception – all sports must meet certain criteria.
BOA chief executive Andy Hunt has always stated that no-one would be ‘coming along for the ride’ and that all sports must demonstrate that they can deliver a credible performance at London 2012 or plans to create a lasting legacy from the Games.
“We are extremely pleased to be able to confirm that the British Handball Association has proven to us that they will maximise the opportunities that come with participation at a Home Games to make a step change in their sport that will also have a lasting legacy for handball,” said Hunt.
In December 2008, British Handball saw its funding slashed as part of a £50 million shortfall in government funding and as a result were forced to base their players with clubs on the continent.
They were also forced to close their national training centre in Aarhus, Denmark, which was opened in 2007, but thanks to improvements in performances saw UK Sport boost their funding at the end of last year.
Last year the men’s team recorded their first ever competitive victory over Bulgaria while in 2009 the women chalked up an impressive two-legged win over Finland.
Performance director Lorraine Brown has targeted a top-eight finish for both GB sides in the 12-strong Olympic competitions – performances that would belie their world rankings.
But British Handball’s commitment to a lasting legacy is evident with a first national performance centre set to be created in Crystal Palace.
Hunt added: “British male and female handball players are competing in high level club competition in Europe and getting the experience they need to deliver a credible performance at the London 2012 Olympics.
“I am confident that handball will be using the experience of London 2012 to ensure sustained competitive excellence and use London 2012 as a platform to qualify by right for future Olympics as well as a springboard for growth and capturing the interest and imagination of the British public.”
And British Handball chief executive Paul Goodwin believes the decision is testament to the hard work that his organisation and both GB teams have put in.
“We are delighted with the BOA's decision to endorse both the men's and women's handball team’s participation at the London Olympic Games,” he said.
“Today's announcement is testimony to the hard work and dedication of our athletes. They have climbed mountains to reach this point and know only too well the challenges that lie ahead.
“Since embarking on this 'Olympic journey', British Handball has always delivered on its promises and we are convinced that our athletes will deliver a credible performance in 2012 and that the British public will not be disappointed.”
Handball remains a fringe sport in the UK but take a quick trip across the channel in mainland Europe and the sport explodes in popularity.
And BOA director of sport Sir Clive Woodward sees no reason why that can’t be the case on home shores.
“Handball enjoys tremendous popularity throughout Europe and there is no reason it shouldn’t be the case in the UK - I believe that the London 2012 Olympics can be the platform for that growth,” he said.
“I have no doubt that handball will do Team GB and their sport proud in 2012. I am sure they will seize this opportunity and make the most of it for the long term benefit of their sport.
“I am delighted that the players now know that all the hard work so far has been worth it and that going forward they can concentrate fully on getting ready for 2012.”
Last month both the men’s and women’s volleyball teams were granted their places at London 2012 while the BOA are continuing to assess whether sports are worthy of a home nation place on a case-by-case basis.