London Spy

Sport guide: Water Polo

London Spy

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The water polo match between the Soviet Union and Hungary in 1956 is remembered as one of the most controversial encounters in Olympic history. The players came to blows against a backdrop of hatred fuelled by the Soviet invasion of Hungary and the referee had to abandon the game.

Hungary won the tournament — their fourth gold medal — and have since claimed five more Olympic titles, including the last three. European nations have only failed to take the gold medal once and that was back in 1904, when the only competitors in St Louis were three teams from the United States.

The Americans did pick up the silver four years ago and they have collected three medals — none of them gold — since the introduction of the women's competition in 2000. The gold has gone respectively to Australia, Italy and the Netherlands.

Of the eight players who have won four or more medals for volleyball, seven are Hungarian. György Kárpáti carried off three golds and a bronze between 1952 and 1964, but the most decorated is Dezső Gyarmati, with three golds, a silver and a bronze between 1948 and 1964.

Matches are contested by teams of seven in a pool with a goal at each end measuring three metres wide and 90cm high.

The action takes place over four periods of eight minutes each and each team is allowed only 30 seconds to make a scoring attempt before the ball is returned to the opposition.

Players are not allowed to touch the sides or the bottom of the pool during the match and only the goalkeeper can touch the ball with both hands.


1 Serbia
2 Croatia
3 Italy
4 Spain
5 United States
6 Montenegro
7 Hungary
8 Australia
1 United States
2 China
3 Australia
4 Russia
5 Italy
6 Hungary
7 Spain

In London the men's and women's competitions will begin with group matches, with the top eight teams progressing to the knockout stage.

There are six teams in the men's group and four in the women's where they will be seeded and play against a team from the other group.


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