London 2012 Guide to…Handball


HANDBALL is regarded as one of the Olympics’ oldest sports, and supposedly based on a reference in Homer’s Odyssey.

It is essentially a combination of basketball and football, and played at a frenetic pace with goal-fests very likely.

  • All you need to know

The ball is passed and dribbled up the court and then thrown past the goalkeeper to score. The court is the largest of any indoor sport at the Games, measuring 40m by 20m. Teams are made up of seven players.

Players can take three steps before dribbling (bouncing the ball) or passing to a teammate, while they cannot hold the ball for more than three seconds without doing the above.

  • Handball in London

The Handball Arena is a newly constructed venue. However, the final stages of the competition will be played at the Basketball Arena in the Olympic Park.

12 men’s and 12 women’s teams will be competing at the Games.

Each event sees the sides divided up in to two groups of six, with the top four from each progressing to the knock-out stages.

  • Nations to watch

Denmark, who have won three Handball gold medals in the past look a force, as do Germany and Russia. Don’t rule out the French either.

And finally…

Look out for: counterattacks! Due to the game’s nature, teams often ‘hit each other on the break’. Not literally.

Not to be confused with: basketball and football. For obvious reasons.

Useless but informative fact: the ball must be made of leather and have a circumference of 58-60cm for men and 54-56cm for women.

Handball in two words: electric atmosphere.

The Handball competition takes place between Saturday 28th July and Sunday 12th August initially at the Handball Arena, but then the Basketball Arena for all the semi-finals and finals.