LONDON, England ● Labelled an “undiscovered gem” by London 2012 chairman Sebastian Coe, handball took centre stage on when the men’s draw for the Olympic tournament pitted holders France against surprise 2008 finalists Iceland.
In the women’s competition, world, Olympic and European champions Norway were grouped with 2008 bronze medallists South Korea.
Handball will be played from July 28-Aug. 12, firstly at the “Copper Box” before moving to the basketball arena – also in the Olympic Park – for the knockout stages.
“We were going through 10 moments of the Games and handball came up in conversation,” 2012 Director of Sport Debbie Jevans told Reuters, recalling a chat with Coe.
The twice 1,500 champion Coe called the sport, little-known in Britain but the most popular team sport for women in Europe, an “undiscovered gem”.
“I think it’s a great sport. People haven’t really focused on it and it was one of the first sports to sell out,” added Jevans, a former British tennis player.
“Once people see it they’re going to be really excited by it.”
France will fancy their chances of progressing in the men’s competition having also been drawn in Group A with three-times runners-up Sweden, hosts Britain, Argentina and African champions Tunisia.
Group B contains European champions Denmark, 2008 Olympic bronze medallists Spain, twice Olympic winners Croatia, Hungary and Serbia while South Korea make up the six.
In the women’s Group A, Montenegro, Beijing silver medallists Russia, Croatia, Britain, Brazil and African champions Angola will do battle.
Facing Norway and South Korea in Group B will be three-times champions Denmark, France, Sweden and Spain.
Both the men’s and women’s competitions begin with a preliminary phase where each team plays five matches with the top four in each group qualifying for the quarter-finals.