Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Tokyo Olympics hockey: Mist fans, heat, match schedule and Oi legacy

All you need to know about the two competition pitches, how players will deal with heat, how the scheduling is organised and Olympic Covid protocols

The Hockey Paper hears from Hilary Atkinson, FIH Hockey Pro League & Olympic Games Director and Jon Wyatt, FIH Sport Director ahead of the Tokyo hockey competition

What have been the main logistics to overcome at these unprecedented Games?

  • 12-month delay – athlete preparation, lack of international matches due to travel restrictions, reorganisation of planned 2021 hockey calendar to insert Olympic Games
  • Ever evolving & changing COVID situation and therefore the need for enhanced and additional risk management protocols before and during Tokyo
  • Integration of the required COVID-counter measures and testing processes into the planning & operations of the Games-time delivery for all stakeholders  
  • Impact of the additional temporary immigration and quarantine measures implemented by all governments around the world due to the pandemic, as well as the challenge of securing flights to and from Japan for accredited officials  
  • Requirement to react to significant decisions made over the course of the pandemic and to revise at each stage the impacted aspects of the FIH`s standard Games-time operations 
  • The scale and pace of additional communication and documentation amongst all stakeholders without the ability to work together in person for a period of 18 months.
The Oi Hockey Stadium, Tokyo

As we have worked through all these logistics, FIH has had a very strong and regular working collaboration with the IOC, TOCOG and the Japanese Hockey Association. We have been fortunate to have had the opportunity to share and transfer the knowledge gained through running international hockey matches such as FIH Hockey Pro League under Covid conditions and we are looking forward to a highly successful Hockey event at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020.

How is the competition schedule worked out on who plays on which pitch and it is allocated fairly? 

A great deal of time is spent planning the match schedule for the Pool matches to give all teams as fair a distribution as possible of matches on each pitch, at different times of the day, playing matches on consecutive days and having the same amount of rest between matches. With 5 pool matches, it is clearly impossible to all play the same number of matches on each pitch, at each time of day and to all have the same number of back to back matchdays, but the schedule is as evenly and fairly distributed as possible. 

The draft schedule, taking all of these factors into consideration, is then shared with the hosts and OBS who share with their respective international broadcasters, for feedback based on the optimal times for ticket sales as well as each nation’s TV audiences around the world, and we then try to accommodate as many of these requests as possible whilst maintaining the original fairness principles

It is an iterative process to deliver the best and fairest schedule possible, balancing many factors. For the knockout phase (quarter finals onwards) all matches take place on the North pitch.

Japan will play on both pitches rather than the main, is this usual schedule at the Olympics? 

The North pitch is the main pitch, and yes this is usual. The Japanese teams will both play 4 of their matches on the North pitch and 1 on the South. For the reasons described above, there is a balance struck between maximizing the home crowd in the stadium (the North pitch has a bigger capacity), and fairness so that the hosts also play some matches on the South pitch.

Are there protocols in place to keep teams apart at the Oi?

Yes. As is standard at Olympic Games, the teams travel on their own team buses and have their own changing facilities and team benches on the field of play. So the teams will not mix other than during the matches on the field of play. 

For the heat/humidity procedure, what plans are in place to combat heat? Will there be giant fans in place?

Each sport in Tokyo has worked with the TOCOG team to put in place heat mitigation measures. These measures were already planned for the Olympic Games and many of these were tested at the Hockey Test Event held at the Oi Hockey Stadium in July/August 2019. For hockey, this follows our Inclement Weather Policy which operates across all FIH events and includes the extension of the breaks between the 1st and 2nd quarters, and the 3rd and 4th quarters, and in extreme circumstances, the opportunity for additional drinks breaks halfway through each quarter.  

The operational heat counter measures in place for Oi Hockey Stadium are outlined in the Team Leaders Guide for Hockey and are as follows:

  • Mist fans (two per team bench) 
  • Shaded team benches 
  • Bottled water at the team benches and changing rooms 
  • Ice 
  • Portable coolers to store drinks, ice, ice vests 
  • Ice baths in changing rooms 
  • Fully air-conditioned changing rooms near the main competition pitch 
  • Drinks refrigerator in changing rooms 
  • Parasols to provide shade in the mixed zone 
  • Athletes’ Lounge with air conditioning
  • Ice jackets/vests available for umpires and technical officials
Japan at the 2018 women’s World Cup PIC: England Hockey

When was the last time there were two main competition pitches at an Olympics? Is this easier to manage and what are the hurdles with two pitches?

The Olympic Games Rio 2016 had two competition pitches and the same will be the case in Paris in 2024 as well.  Having 2 pitches provides much greater flexibility in possible match timings, enabling us to avoid the hottest part of the day for example and having matches scheduled for morning and the evening.

Clearly, there are twice the resource requirements at any one time to manage the 2 pitches, and it is obviously more of a challenge for the Technical Delegates to keep an eye on matches on both pitches at the same time. Coaches are also only able to watch one match live, but video footage of all matches is provided to all teams for their analysis and preparation for their future matches.

For the Pool matches there are 2 matches scheduled for each time. What time is the second match within this slot scheduled to push back?

  • Session 1: 09.30 and 11.45
  • Session 2: 10.00 and 12.15
  • For the quarter finals: 09.30 and 12.00, then 18.30 and 21.00 
  • For the semi-finals and medal matches; 10:30, then 19:00

Full Olympic hockey match schedule here

What is the legacy for the Oi after Tokyo 2020? 

As a result of the extensive work of AHF President Fumio Ogura, AHF CEO Tayyab Ikram and the Japanese Hockey Association, the legacy of the Oi Hockey Stadium will be a significant one for the sport of hockey in Japan.

The Oi Hockey Stadium, which is only 25 minutes from the centre of Tokyo will be used for hockey at all levels after the Olympic Games, from the National teams right through to the clubs, schools and community of Shinagawa and Ota City.

There is a strategic plan for 23 tournaments a year to be hosted at the venue.

Total Hockey

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