Get Involved: HOCKEY
Hockey will feel right at home at these Olympics, having first been introduced to the Games in London in 1908.
Mel Clewlow, BBC Sport
"New rule changes mean the game is quicker, more goals are being scored, skill levels are massively improved and it's much easier to watch. The British teams both contain world class talents and are realistic medal contenders. Ashley Jackson was the world junior player of the year a couple of years ago. For the women, Alex Danson is the one scoring the goals. Competition in the men's will come from Australia who possess the exceptional Jamie Dwyer, and Germany. In the women's, my tip would be a Netherlands-GB final and in Maartje Paumen the Dutch have the best drag-flicker around."
Over a century on, the sport is in very good health; a total of 630,000 spectators will see live hockey at the 2012 Games, with every match a sell-out.
Great Britain's men and women's teams have qualified automatically as the hosts, hoping to emulate the British men's team that won gold in front of home fans at the inaugural hockey tournament.
The 2012 tournament offers a feast for hockey fans, with 12 men's and 12 women's teams competing over 14 days, initially in pools of six.
The British women face Japan in their opening London 2012 Olympic hockey match at 1900 BST on Sunday 29 July, with the men scheduled to begin their campaign against Argentina at the same time a day later.
Why is it good for you?
Hockey is a high-energy sport that improves players' pace, agility and lower body strength. As it requires constant movement, you can burn approximately 560 calories per game.
As a vigorous form of cardiovascular exercise it increases lung capacity, allowing more oxygen to be delivered to the organs in the body.
The effort of using a hockey stick strengthens the triceps, forearm and shoulder muscles, while the dynamic movement required to get across the pitch boosts the hamstring and calfs.
As hockey is a team game, it is an excellent way to develop communication skills and learn to work effectively with other people.
Clubs also offer a variety of social events beyond simply playing the sport.
Hockey is a fast and exciting team sport played by more than 100,000 people in the United Kingdom.
For those wanting to play the game, it is vital to buy your own gum shield and shin pads to ensure safety. It is worth checking with your local club whether they can provide a hockey stick for the first few sessions before you decide if you want to purchase one for yourself.
Whether you are a complete novice or returning to the sport, the Hockey Nation website lists places you can take part or watch the sport in the UK.
There are hundreds of events to choose from, many of them at little or no charge.
Rush Hockey, Back to Hockey, Quicksticks and In2Hockey also provide a variety of different ways to play the game.
Want to get involved with sport in your local community? Why not Join In ?
'Join In Local Sport' aims to get as many people as possible to turn up and take part in activities at their local sports facilities on 18/19 August, 2012 - the first weekend between the Olympic and Paralympic Games.
The aim of the initiative is for every sports club and community group in the UK to put on a special event in a bid to encourage more people to get involved as members, supporters or volunteers.
More than 4,000 local sports clubs will be opening their doors to host events and show people just how they can get involved.
As well as tips on playing sport there will be information on coaching, supporting and how to help out.
Find an event near you.
The competition format at London 2012
- From Sunday 29 July to Saturday 11 August 384 athletes (192 men, 192 women) will compete at the Riverbank Arena.
- Both the men's and the women's events involve 12 teams, divided into two pools of six.
- The top two countries from each pool progress to the semi-finals.
- The winners will go head-to-head for gold, the losers for bronze.
The rules at London 2012
Teams of 11 players compete over two periods of 35 minutes using hook-shaped sticks to hit the ball towards their opponents' goal.
The ball can only be played with the flat face or edge of the stick and players are not allowed to use their feet or any other part of their body, apart from the goalkeepers, who can use their stick, hands, feet, legs and body.
There are five substitutes available to each team and coaches may make unlimited changes during a game.
Can you compete?
Get your performance under pressure analysed in just 20 minutes by four-time Olympic gold medallist Michael Johnson
A goal can only be scored if the ball is touched by an attacker within the shooting circle. Aside from open play, many goals are scored through penalty corners.
These are awarded when a defending team breaks a rule within their own shooting circle or within the 25yd (22.9m) line of the goal they are defending.
From a penalty corner, an attacker pushes the ball out to a team-mate waiting outside the circle to strike at goal, while five defenders who waited behind the back line run out to try and block the shot.
Offences can be punished with a verbal caution, green card (warning), yellow card (temporary suspension of a minimum of five minutes) or red card (permanent suspension).
In the preliminary phase, teams receive three points for a win, one point for a draw and nothing for a defeat.
In the knockout phases only, if the scores are level at the end of normal time, there will be 15 minutes (two halves of seven and a half minutes) sudden death extra time played.
If no 'golden goal' is scored, a shoot-out competition is played in which five players from each team take a one-on-one shoot out alternately against a goalkeeper from the other team. The team scoring the most goals is the winner.
If the teams are still on an equal number of goals after each has taken five shoot-outs, another barrage of five will commence, only this time on a 'sudden death' basis.
Ones to watch
Great Olympic moment
Great Britain's men won gold in 1988, beating West Germany 3-1 in the final. As Britain's second goal went in, BBC commentator Barry Davies produced this famous piece of commentary: "Where, oh, where were the Germans? And frankly, who cares?"
Both the men's and women's teams are ranked fourth in the world (as England rather than Great Britain) and stand a good chance of competing for a medal.
At the Olympic test event in May, GB's women beat world champions Argentina to win gold, while the men took bronze following a 2-1 win over India.
Both the men and women won bronze at last year's European Championships - a fourth consecutive European bronze for the women.
Men's Olympic champions Germany beat top-ranked Australia to win the Olympic test event in May. Those two also met in the last World Cup final, with the Aussies coming out on top.
Britain's women find themselves in the same pool as defending Olympic champions Netherlands, while 2012 Champions Trophy winners Argentina are second seeds.
Hockey gets its name from the French word 'hocquet', which means shepherd's crook.
There are records of a similar game being played in Persia in 2000 BC and the modern sport developed in London in the 19th century before being spread throughout the British Empire.
Did you know?
Great Britain remain the most successful European nation at the Olympics despite not winning a medal since 1992
It became an Olympic sport for men in 1908, but it was not until the Moscow Games of 1980 that women's teams were admitted.
Since the 2000 Games in Sydney, men have competed in a 12-team tournament and women in a 10-team one, but in London there will be 12 teams in each tournament.
India were the dominant force in the sport either side of World War Two. Between 1928 and 1960 they won 30 consecutive matches at the Olympics, scoring 197 goals and conceding just eight.
India's men have won eight Olympic golds in all, although the last of these came in 1980 and they did not even qualify for the Beijing Olympics.
Zimbabwe were the inaugural women's winners in the boycott affected 1980 Games, while it is the Netherlands who will be defending champions in London, having upset hosts China 2-0 in the 2008 final.