Summer Olympic Games 1996 – 2012
India once dominated Olympic men’s hockey but, since artificial turf was introduced in 1976, it has won just one medal, gold in the heavily boycotted Games of 1980. It could not afford to replace its grass pitches and so its slower, dribbling game failed to evolve.
In contrast, the Netherlands thrived on the new surface, developing a fast passing game which is believed to have inspired the Total Football of Johan Cruyff and his teammates. In Rio, its women will be aiming for a record third gold in a row, but they will have some way to go to catch the six consecutive titles of the Indian men between 1928 and 1956.
This year’s big story could be the return of India to the podium, having finished second in the Champions Trophy and third in 2015’s World League. The comeback of Ireland’s men has been even longer-awaited – their last appearance was in the Olympics of 1908.
Next: It’s no shock that Japan leads the judo medals but second place is more surprising