BOTH the men's and women's GB handball teams will compete at the London Olympics in 2012 after the British Olympic Association (BOA) gave them the green light.
After a presentation by British handball officials last week, the BOA announced on Wednesday that British Handball would be allowed to take up their place at the games.
The news was announced by BOA Chief Executive and Chef de Mission Andy Hunt at the Olympic Handball Arena in London, which is set to be finished in around 14 weeks time.
“We are extremely pleased to be able to confirm that the British Handball Association has proven to us that they will maximise the opportunities that come with participation at a Home Games to make a step change in their sport that will also have a lasting legacy for handball," he said.
“British male and female handball players are competing in high level club competition in Europe and getting the experience they need to deliver a credible performance at the London 2012 Olympics.
"I am confident that handball will be using the experience of London 2012 to ensure sustained competitive excellence and use London 2012 as a platform to qualify by right for future Olympics as well as a springboard for growth and capturing the interest and imagination of the British public.”
As the National Olympic Committee for Great Britain and Northern Ireland, the BOA, among its many duties, is responsible for approving the eligibility and entry of all British athletes who compete as members of Team GB at the Olympic Games.
BOA Director of Sport and Deputy Team GB Chef de Mission Sir Clive Woodward said: “Handball enjoys tremendous popularity throughout Europe and there is no reason it shouldn’t be the case in the UK - I believe that the London 2012 Olympics can be the platform for that growth.
"I have no doubt that handball will do Team GB and their sport proud in 2012. I am sure they will seize this opportunity and make the most of it for the long term benefit of their sport. I am delighted that the players now know that all the hard work so far has been worth it and that going forward they can concentrate fully on getting ready for 2012.”
Paul Goodwin, British Handball CEO, said: “We are delighted with the BOA's decision to endorse both the men's and women's handball teams participation at the London Olympic Games. Today's announcement is testimony to the hard work and dedication of our athletes.
They have climbed mountains to reach this point and know only too well the challenges that lie ahead.
"Since embarking on this 'Olympic journey', British Handball has always delivered on its promises and we are convinced that our athletes will deliver a credible performance in 2012 and that the British public will not be disappointed.”
Lorraine Brown, British Handball Performance Director, commented: “The announcement today is fantastic recognition of the progress made by the GB handball teams over the past four years and vindication of the hard work, dedication and commitment shown by the players who never lost sight of their Olympic Dream.
"Although everyone in GB Handball performance programme recognise that there is still a lot of hard work to be undertaken in the next 18 months to ensure we maximise the time remaining, the trust and support shown by the BOA in our plans is tremendous news."
GB goalkeeper Bobby White, said: “It is fantastic news that the BOA has given us the opportunity to compete at the London Olympics. There has been a great deal of hard work from everybody involved in British Handball, none more so than the players that have continued to fight and improve when circumstances were against us. Now we can focus solely on what we can control, and push on even further.
"In 2012 we will have the chance to show the British public what an incredible sport handball is and show the f the International handball community what can be achieved in such a relatively short amount of time, considering where we started!”
And women’s team member Dani Sposi, added: “It's fantastic news to hear that we are going to compete for our country at London 2012. We have been working very hard and have been dedicated to the dream of competing in London for the past four years.
"Being part of Team GB is a great honour and we are pleased the BOA saw in our team a credible group of athletes as well as a great opportunity for British Handball. We will be based in London later on this year to intensify our training and be ready to produce inspiring performances in London, for the public, for the sport and for the legacy we would love to leave behind for the next generation of handball players.”
Team GB players can now look forward to competing at the Handball Arena in the Olympic Park, with the ODA confirming that the upper tier of 3,500 seats has now been completed and the last of the sustainably-sourced copper cladding fitted onto the unique roof.
Work is moving ahead inside the venue, with the remaining 3,000 retractable lower tier seats to be installed once the sprung wooden court surface is completed next month. A webcam has also been installed at the area, allowing people to see the progress made to date.
ODA Chairman John Armitt said: “The Handball Arena is one of the most compact on the Olympic Park, with legacy and sustainability very much integrated into the design process.
Progress is moving ahead at an impressive rate, with over half of the seats already in place and work underway of installing the sprung wooden floor.”