Olympics Sports >> Water polo

Water polo


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


  • In the men's tournament there are 2 groups of 6 teams. The top 4 in each group advance to the quarter-finals, with 1st facing 4th and 2nd facing 3rd (from the other group). Then semi-finals, bronze medal match and final.
  • In the women's tournament there are 2 groups of 4 teams. All 8 teams advance to the knock-out phase, with the group matches used to determine the quarter-final match-ups (1A-4B, 2A-3B etc.). Then semi-finals, bronze medal match and final.


Mid-19th century

Games of "water derby", a ball game played in water, are organised by the London Swimming Association.


William Wilson establishes the rules for "water baseball".


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


The game takes the name "water handball".


The first rules of the game are drawn up.


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


Hungary wins the first of its record 9 Olympic titles in Los Angeles.

6 December, 1956

The so-called "blood in the water" match. A month after the Soviet invasion of Hungary, the two nations meet in the Olympic semi-finals in Melbourne. The match descends into violence and the referee is forced to abandon, with Hungary leading 4-0. The Hungarians are declared the winners and go on to win the gold medal. Meanwhile police have to intervene to stop the 5,500 spectators from clashing with the USSR team.


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


Dezso Gyarmati (Hungary)

A serial medal collector and the symbol of Hungarian dominance. He won Olympic gold in 1952, 1956 and 1964, plus silver in 1948 and bronze in 1960. He remains the most decorated Olympian in the sport's history.

Manuel Estiarte (Spain)

A Spanish legend. Olympic champion in 1996 and silver medallist in 1992, he also won world championship gold in 1998, and silver in 1991 and 1994. Winner of 5 European Cups, he is widely regarded as one of the greatest players of all time.

Francesco Attolico (Italy)

One of the sport's great goalkeepers. Olympic gold medallist in 1992, bronze medallist in 1996 and world champion in 1994. He also won the 1993 World Cup and was crowned European champion in 1993 and 1995.

Copyright 2008 Agence France-Presse.


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