The hockey venue for the Hangzhou Asian Games later this year is almost ready and there is no ambiguity about the continental multi-sport event being a qualifier for the 2024 Paris Olympics, International Hockey Federation (FIH) president Ikram Tayyab said on Sunday.
The Asian Games, which were to be held last year in the Chinese city of Hangzhou but were postponed due to the worsening COVID-19 situation in the country, is scheduled to be held in the Chinese city from September 23 to October 8.
Tayyab, a Pakistan-born Macau citizen, is currently a member of the Hangzhou Asian Games Coordination Committee which is headed by former Indian Olympic Association secretary general and current Olympic Council of Asia acting chief Randhir Singh.
"Asian Games is on, 100 per cent on. I happen to be a senior member of the Hangzhou Asian Games Coordination Committee and I am continuing in that role," Tayyab said at a press conference ahead of the FIH Men's World Cup final in Bhubaneshwar.
"This March, we (Asian Games Coordination Committee) are going to have a meeting in Hangzhou in China. The venue was almost ready at the beginning of last year, so there is no problem regarding the Asian Games serving as qualifier of the 2014 Paris Olympics."
"Of course, there was a time we were thinking of having another tournament as the Olympic qualifiers in case China is not able to host the Asian Games," said Tayyab, who was Asian Hockey Federation CEO before he was elected as the IHF chief last year, replacing India's Narinder Batra.
The Asian Games normally serves as the Olympic qualifiers but there was some confusion after the Hangzhou Asian Games were postponed from last year to this year due to the COVID-19 situation in China.
As per the qualification procedure for the Paris Games laid down by the FIH, 12 teams each of men and women will participate in the competition.
The host nation France will get a direct berth in both sections. Besides, five continental champions from Africa, Pan America, Asia, Europe and Oceania will also qualify directly.
For the remaining six berths, the FIH will conduct two Olympic Qualification Tournaments, consisting of eight teams each (16 teams in total), to be held in early 2024.
The number of teams from each continent participating in these tournaments will be based on continental quotas, which will be determined according to the FIH World Rankings on January 31, 2023.
The teams filling each quota, and therefore invited to participate, will be based on their performance at the continental championships. The top three in each of these tournaments will qualify.
Describing the ongoing World Cup as one of the best ever, Tayyab said the FIH will consider bringing a top-level hockey event to Odisha in the coming years.
"This is one of the best World Cups ever, one of the best events in global hockey. It was a great experience for the local population and for the participating teams and athletes."
"We are in discussion with the Odisha government on how this marvellous infrastructure is used in the future. The best way to appreciate this infrastructure is to bring back a top-level hockey event in Odisha," he said, adding that there has been a "dramatic increase in the television viewership of this World Cup".
At the start of the World Cup, Tayyab had said in Rourkela that the FIH was doing a study if drag-flick rules could be tweaked to give more reaction time to the PC defenders in view of safety concerns of the players.
"This World Cup is reflecting differently in the PC conversion rate which was so low. There were some teams which did better but overall the PC conversion rate was so down," he said, hinting that the world body may be having a different view now.
He said no team has till now reported to the FIH regarding any "inconsistencies in the interpretation of rules" by the officials, field umpires and video referral umpires.
"We will be happy to look into such matters if there are any. But it is not a serious issue at this moment. This is not a point of discussion at this moment."
There was a lack of clarity in the rules regarding the rankings of the teams playing in the classification matches. For example, two teams, including India and Argentina, finished joint ninth.
Another two teams were placed joint 13th and another two joint 15th.
Asked about this, Tayyab chose not to give a direct answer.
"The most important thing for us is the well-being of the players. We also need to make it cost-effective for everybody. This 16-team format is the best we have now. You can have classification and reclassification matches to be a never-ending World Cup," Tayyab said.
"On one side we are getting questions on player injury and on the other, you want more matches to be played which are not very important at this time."
"Our ranking system at this moment allows this, we are comfortable with this but open to any discussion."
FIH CEO Thierry Weil, who was also present, said that the 2026 World Cup to be jointly hosted by Belgium and the Netherlands will be played on turfs which will not require water for its maintenance.
"After the 2024 Paris Olympics, these water-free turfs will be on the market. In the second part of 2024, these turfs will be commercially available and will be used first in the 2026 World Cup," Weil said.