Guide to Olympic Water Polo

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Welcome to our armchair guide to water polo at the Olympics. You’ll find insights from top GB players, a water polo jargon buster, Olympic water polo facts at a glance, an Olympic water polo timeline, and a ones-to-watch calendar so you can plan your Olympic viewing.


Looking for an introduction to water polo for the Olympics? Then let our athlete videos guide you.


  • Water Polo is Great Britain's most succesful Olympic aquatics sport - we currently sit third in the all-time medal table with four golds from 1900, 1908, 1912 and 1920.
  • The sport is known as one of the most physical in the Olympic program with a match between Hungary and the USSR at the 1956 Games in Melbourne notoriously refered to as the 'Blood in the Water' match. The game took place days after the unsuccesful Hungarian Revolution against Soviet occupiers and the match was called off with a minute to play after Valentin Prokopov incensed the crowd by punching Ervin Zador and causing the Hungarian player to bleed from under his eye.
  • Matches are played over four quarters of eight minutes with six outfield players and one goalkeeper permitted in play at one time. Players cannot touch the bottom or sides of the pool at any time and only the goalkeeper is allowed to touch the ball with both hands at the same time.
  • Teams can only have possession for 30 seconds during each phase of play.
  • While Great Britain dominated the early Games, Hungary are now the world leaders with nine Olympic titles to their names. The women's competition has only been held at three Games with different winners on each occasion although USA have finished on the podium (silver, bronze, silver) at all three.


Planning a little TV or internet time watching the Olympics? Then use our calendar to help you find the water polo events that interest you.

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