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Why is Bandy Not Supported in the Winter Olympics?

Although the Olympic Games tend to grow larger with time — adding new sports and events to the existing lineup — existing sports are also sometimes eliminated. For example, the inaugural Winter Olympic Games in 1924 featured a discipline of cross-country skiing called military patrol, which has long been removed.

The Olympic Games also used to occasionally feature demonstration sports, which were sports played at the Games as a means to showcase them, but they were not included in the medal ceremonies. While the inclusion of demonstration sports in the Olympic Games has been suspended, one of the previous demonstration sports at the Winter Olympics was bandy.

Goal net on an ice rink.
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Bandy is a version of hockey that even many sports enthusiasts know very little about. Though you won’t find bandy on the Winter Olympics schedule for 2022, it’s still contested internationally outside of the Olympic Games. Keep reading to learn more about the sport of bandy, and what other ice sports you can catch at the Winter Olympics.

What is Bandy?

Ice skates for bandy.
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Bandy is a winter sport played by teams on the ice. Athletes wear ice skates and use sticks to move the ball down the bandy field (which is essentially a very large ice rink) towards the goal. Bandy is extremely fast-paced and is a relatively free-flowing game with few interruptions.

How is Bandy Different Than Hockey?

Bandy is related to ice hockey, though the equipment, field, and rules are somewhat different. For example, bandy goals are larger, standing 11 feet wide and nearly 7 feet tall.

Bandy also shares similarities with football and field hockey. Like football, a bandy game usually has two 45-minute halves and there are 11 players per side. The fields are also similarly sized, though bandy is played on ice. The sticks and ball used in bandy resemble the bowed stick and small ball used in field hockey rather than the stick and puck used with ice hockey. Body contact, such as shouldering, does occur in bandy, but checking and fighting are not permitted.

Where is Bandy Played?

Bandy is played on an ice field, which is a very large sheet of ice. It is mostly played in Russia and Northern European nations such as Finland and Sweden. Interestingly, though many people know very little about bandy, it’s actually the second-most played ice sport worldwide after hockey. However, the popularity of viewership pales in comparison.

What Are the Rules of Bandy?

The aim of bandy is to score more goals than the other team. Including the goalkeeper, there are 11 players per side. Bandy players (aside from the goalkeeper) are not permitted to intentionally touch the ball with their heads, hands, or arms while it’s in play, though other body parts are legal. That said, players mostly use their stick to dribble and pass the ball down the field toward the goal. The stick is also used to shoot goals. The opposing team can intercept, steal, or tackle to try and take over possession of the ball. That said, tackling is minimal, and unlike football,  the game rarely stops unless the ball goes out of bounds.

Heading the bandy ball results in a five-minute penalty for the player. A referee officiates the game.

What Are the Positions in Bandy?

The only official or required position in bandy is the goalkeeper. Most teams choose to organize their remaining players into forwards, defenders, and midfielders. Every player who is not the goalkeeper is considered an “outfield” player.

The team’s formation, or arrangement of players, is flexible and fluid. A team may choose to have three forwards, three midfielders, and four defenders, for example, or five forwards, two midfielders, and three defenders, among others. Any arrangement is fine and players can switch positions at any time.

Is Bandy Played At the Olympics?

Although bandy was never an official medaled sport in the Winter Olympics, men’s bandy was included as a demonstration sport at the 1952 Winter Olympics in Oslo. At the time, it was the first international bandy competition since 1913. Three men’s teams — Sweden, Finland, and Norway — competed with their top players, and each team won a match. As per the rules of bandy, Sweden ultimately won the tournament because they had the best goal difference. Norway placed second and Finland finished third.

The bandy competition at the 1952 Winter Olympics inspired the establishment of the Bandy World Championships, which began in 1957.

There were discussions about including bandy in the 2014 Winter Olympics, but it did not make the lineup, nor is bandy currently a sport at the Winter Olympics.

What Sports Are Played at the Winter Olympics Instead of Bandy?

Ice hockey players fight for the puck.
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There will be seven sports encompassing 15 disciplines and 109 events contested at the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing. The sports and their disciples include biathlon, bobsledding (bobsleigh and skeleton), curling, ice hockey, luge, skating (figure skating, short-track speed skating, speed skating), and skiing (alpine skiing, cross-country skiing, freestyle skiing, Nordic combined skiing, ski jumping, and snowboarding).

Of the sports currently included in the Winter Olympics, ice hockey is the most closely related to bandy.

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