Host City: Beijing, China
Date Started: August 9, 2008
Date Finished: August 24, 2008
Participants: 343 (172 men and 171 women) from 18 countries
Youngest Participant: Azenaide Carlos (18 years, 57 days)
Oldest Participant: Christian Schwarzer (38 years, 292 days)
Most Medals (Athlete): 85 athletes with 1 medal
Most Medals (Country): 6 countries with 1 medal
The 2004 handball matches were held at the Guojia Tiyuguan, or the National Indoor Stadium, at the Olympic Green; and the Ao Ti Zhongxin Tiyuguan, or the Olympic Sports Centre Gymnasium; with the final rounds held at the National Indoor Stadium. The Olympic Sports Centre Gymnasium was at the southern edge of the Olympic Green and was an existing venue, but it was renovated for the 2008 Olympics, with the renovation completed in August 2007. The National Indoor Stadium was specially built for the 2008 Olympics and was finished in November 2007. It was nicknamed “The Fan” because it resembled a Chinese folding fan.
The format for both men and women was two groups of six teams each that played a round-robin tournament to advance four teams from each group to the single-elimination brackets, beginning with the quarter-finals. The women’s field was expanded to 12 teams for the first time, after 10 teams competed in 2000 and 2004, 8 teams from 1988-96, and 6 teams from 1976-84.
The 12 men’s teams qualified for the 2008 Olympics as follows – China as the host nation; Germany as the 2007 World Champion; the top six teams from the 2008 Olympic Qualifying Tournament (Poland, Iceland, France, Spain, Croatia, Russia); the 2008 European Champion (Denmark); Brazil as the 2007 Pan American Games Champion; and the winners of the 2007 Asian and 2008 African Olympic Qualifying Tournaments (Korea [South], Egypt, respectively).
The 12 women’s teams qualified for the 2008 Olympics as follows – China as the host nation; Russia as the 2007 World Champion; the top six teams from the 2008 Olympic Qualifying Tournament (Germany, Sweden, Romania, Hungary, France, Korea [South]); the 2006 European Champion (Norway); Brazil as the 2007 Pan American Games Champion; and the winners of the 2007 Asian and 2008 African Olympic Qualifying Tournaments (Kazakhstan, Angola, respectively).
France came in as the favorite in the men’s tournament and came through for the gold medal, defeating surprising Iceland in the final, 28-23. Denmark had won the last three women’s gold medals but they did not qualify after finishing 11th at the 2006 European Championships. In their absence, Norway and Russia were favored and they made the final, with Norway winning, 34-27.