Host City: Sydney, Australia
Date Started: September 16, 2000
Date Finished: October 1, 2000
Participants: 231 (153 men and 78 women) from 13 countries
Youngest Participant: Juraj Zaťovič (17 years, 337 days)
Oldest Participant: Mo O'Toole (39 years, 177 days)
Most Medals (Athlete): 77 athletes with 1 medal
Most Medals (Country): Russia (2 medals)
The big news in 2000 water polo was that women’s water polo was finally on the Olympic Program. Women had contested water polo at the World Championships since 1986, and at the European Championships since 1985, although there had been a women’s World Cup beginning in 1979. The United States had had national championships in women’s water polo since 1962.
Women’s Olympic water polo was not accepted easily, and the impetus owes much to two Australian women, Leanne Barnes and Pat Jones. Water polo for women became popular in Australia in the 1960s and in 1976 they sent a team to compete at the US National Championships, the first effective international competition. In 1994 Australian Water Polo Incorporated (AWPI) formed a gender equity commission chaired by Barnes. At the top of their wish list was to get the women’s sport into the Olympics. In 1993 FINA had made adding women’s water polo its number one priority for the Olympic Program.
But the groups were often rebuffed. In February 1995 a meeting was convened in Amsterdam and the International Women’s Water Polo Olympic Movement was formed. This group then made a formal presentation to the Sydney Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games (SOCOG), done by Barnes. Despite this, in November 1996 the IOC Executive Board did not discuss the option of adding women’s water polo to the program. So in April 1997 Pat Jones led a protest rally at the Sydney airport when FINA President Mutapha Larfauoi arrived at the airport. At a press conference later that week, Larfauoi was interrupted when the group presented him with a letter from Jones demanding to know why women’s water polo was not being put on the program, and threatening legal action if nothing were done.
In June 1997 Australian Olympic Committee President John Coates stated that it was disappointing that FINA had added another synchronized swimming event (duet) to the 2000 Olympic Program, but not women’s water polo. In October 1997 after legal action was again threatened by Barnes and Jones, as President Larfauoi reached Australia for the World Aquatics Championships in Perth, it was suddenly announced that a women’s water polo tournament would be added to the 2000 Olympic Program. The final reasons for the various groups capitulating were never explained, but it mattered little to those lobbying them, who had achieved their goal.
The water polo events in 2000 were held at two locations, the Sydney International Aquatic Centre and the Ryde Aquatic Leisure Centre in Ryde, New South Wales. The Sydney Aquatic Centre was the site for the swimming and diving in 2000. Most of the water polo matches were contested at Ryde, but the women’s medal matches and the men’s medal matches and semi-finals were held at the Sydney International Aquatic Centre.
The format for the men’s tournament was precisely the same as in 1996. There were 12 teams entered with two preliminary round-robin pools of six teams each. The top four teams in each pool advanced to an eight-team single-elimination medal tournament, with quarter-finals, semi-finals and finals. The last two teams in the preliminary pools contested a classification round-robin for places 9-12. The losing quarter-finalists contested a single-elimination tournament for places 5-8.
There were only six women’s teams entered in Sydney. They contested a round-robin tournament which advanced four teams to a single elimination medal tournament with semi-finals and finals. The 5th and 6th-placed teams in the round-robin had a single match for fifth place.