The 2012 Olympics are about 17 months away and the British Handball Federation has had several small victories, both on and off the court, in the past few months. First off, back in January the British Olympic Association (BOA) (GBR’s Olympic Committee) granted full approval for the British teams to participate in the 2012 Olympics. Never a done deal, the BOA’s approval was contingent on British Handball making the case that the games would leave a “lasting legacy” for the sport and that the men’s and women’s teams could put forth a “credible performance.” Some had even argued that no funding should be spent on a team with no hope of medalling.
Terms like “lasting legacy” and “credible performance” are wide open to interpretation, but few would argue that progress isn’t being made on both fronts. Notably the European Handball Federation (EHF) has stepped forward with some funding support to British Handball. Details were lacking in terms of how much funding, but it appears most of it will go toward the salary of a full-time handball development officer in London. Such a position makes sense and is a win-win for British Handball and the EHF as both organizations would benefit greatly were Great Britain to become a Handball nation.
On the court itself, Great Britain is still a long ways from being on par with the other 11 nations that will round out the field in London. The Men’s recent matches against Italy (a 33-24 victory) and Turkey (26-28 loss), however provide some hope. Neither of those teams strikes fear into Europe’s top handball nations, but those are a couple of teams that likely would have beaten a British side by 10 or more goals only a couple of years ago. Does that mean the Brits are on track for a credible performance in 17 months? That, of course, depends on your standards. Both the men and the women are likely to get beaten badly by the other European sides and will be fortunate to win any games. But, it wouldn’t surprise me if they have stretches where they play credibly.
The more important standard though, is clearly the “lasting legacy” one. Non handball nations like Australia and the U.S. have failed to fully take advantage of the opportunity an Olympics can bring. Let’s hope that Great Britain can break that trend and use 2012 as a stepping stone towards becoming a Handball nation.
Eurosport.com (21 March 2011): GB handballers raring to go: http://au.eurosport.com/olympicgames/olympic-games/2012/gb-hanballers-ready-to-go_sto2714238/story.shtml
EHF (15 Mar 2011): EHF supports Olympic legacy in London: http://www.eurohandball.com/article/13762
The Economist (17 Mar 2011): Britain’s new Olympic sports: New balls, please: The host nation extends its sporting repertoire: http://www.economist.com/node/18396255?story_id=18396255&fsrc=rss
BBC (19 Jan 2011): Great Britain handball teams given 2012 Olympic nod: http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport2/hi/handball/9362374.stm
THN Commentary (25 Jan 2008): Times of London Handball Article Misses the Goal: http://teamhandballnews.com/2008/01/times-of-london-handball-article-misses-the-goal/