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The starting pistol for the race to the Rio 2016 Games will be fired this year. In the coming months, the first Olympic and Paralympic athletes will earn places at the first editions of the Games to be staged in South America. Throughout 2014, athletes from at least 10 Olympic sports – including basketball, equestrian and sailing – and 12 Paralympic sports – including goalball, 7-a-side football and sitting volleyball – will earn qualification spots for the greatest sporting event on the planet.
“This year we will see the first athletes book their places in Rio and that is a very exciting step not only for them, but also for us at the organising committee,” said Melina Xanthopoulou, Rio 2016’s Sport Entries Manager. “When the Games begin, the huge efforts of the athletes will be rewarded with the chance to compete on the world’s biggest stage.”
More than 10,000 athletes will compete at the first Olympic Games in South America, in August 2016, and the following month 4,350 Paralympic athletes will have their moment in Rio.
Each sport’s International Federation (IF) determines the qualification system adopted, together with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and International Paralympic Committee (IPC). There are two types of qualification: ‘nominal’ – when athletes win spots for themselves (e.g. table tennis, wrestling); and ‘slot’ – when athletes win places for their National Olympic and Paralympic Committees (NOCs/NPCs) who then decide, with the National Federation, if they will use the quota and which athletes to send (e.g. rowing, football, volleyball).
Each sport ensures there is fair gender and continental representation through quotas. This can lead to exceptions in the nominal system – when an NOC/NPC has more athletes qualified than the quota allows for, the NOC/NPC makes the final decision (e.g. athletics, swimming, judo).
Qualification can be achieved according to world rankings, through the major international competitions, or via specific qualifying tournaments. Often, two or more of these methods are combined. All federations have finalised their systems for Rio 2016, although some are still pending IOC approval.
Using the world rankings method, major international and continental competitions held within an established period are graded according to their degree of importance. At the end of the period, the athletes or teams with the most points win the available places. Judo, tennis and beach volleyball are among the sports that use this criterion.
Several IFs, such as those governing basketball and volleyball, use international and continental competitions as a means of access to the Games, rewarding the champions and sometimes the best-placed runners-up in the same way that qualifying tournaments do. Individual sports usually require athletes to reach set qualification standards.
Highlights among Rio 2016 qualification events this year will be the men’s and women’s basketball world cups (in August-September and September-October, respectively), the sailing and shooting world championships (both in September) and the World Equestrian Games (August-September). At the Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea (September-October) the winners of the men’s and women’s hockey competitions will secure their spots, while rugby and golf, which are both returning to the Olympic programme in 2016, will also begin their qualifying processes for Rio this year.
For Paralympic sports, the pace will be even faster. June and July will see four world championships decide places at Rio 2016 and dreams will continue to be realised – and hearts broken- until the end of the year, when 70 para-cyclists will qualify through the world ranking system.
The race to Rio is well and truly on.
The tables below show in detail how different Olympic and Paralympic sports will begin qualification for Rio 2016 this year.
|Sport||Qualification method||Dates||Rio 2016 places|
|Triathlon||World ranking points||starts 15 May||88|
|Mountain Bike||World ranking points||starts 25 May||66|
|Judo||World ranking points||starts 30 May||352|
|BMX cycling||World ranking points||starts 31 May||43|
|Weightlifting||World ranking points||starts 19 June||175 teams/15 individ|
|Golf||World ranking points||starts 14 July||118|
|Road cycling||World ranking points||starts 15 July||189|
|Football||Women's Copa America||Aug||TBC|
|Equestrian dressage||World Equestrian Games||24-29 Aug||3 teams|
|Equestrian eventing||World Equestrian Games||27-31 Aug||6 teams|
|Esquestrian jumping||World Equestrian Games||31 Aug-7 Sept||5 teams|
|Basketball||Men's world cup||30 Aug-14 Sept||1 team|
|Shooting||World championship||6-20 Sept||64|
|Sailing||World championship||8-21 Sept||138|
|Hockey||Asian Games||18 Sept-4 Oct||2 teams|
|Basketball||Women's world cup||27 Sept-5 Oct||1 team|
|Rugby sevens||World Sevens Series||starts 1 Oct||8 teams|
|Shooting||Americas qualification tournament||11-20 Oct||11|
|Boxing||World ranking points||starts Nov||17|
|Handball||European qualification tournament||7-21 Dec||1 team|
|Sport||Qualification method||Dates||Rio 2016 places|
|Boccia||World ranking points||starts 1 Jan||68|
|Shooting||Qualifying standard||starts 1 Jan||TBC|
|Equestrian||Qualifying standard||starts 1 Jan||TBC|
|Wheelchair tennis||World ranking points||starts 1 Jan||56|
|Para-cycling||World ranking points||starts 1 Jan||70|
|Powerlifting||Qualifying standard||12 April||140|
|Sitting volleyball||World championship||15-21 June||4 teams|
|Goalball||World championship||26 June-6 July||6 teams|
|Shooting||World championship||17-26 July||63|
|7-a-side football||European championship||20 July-4 Aug||1 or 2 teams|
|Wheelchair rugby||World championship||1-10 Aug||1 team|
|Sailing||World championship||16-25 Aug||39|
|Equestrian||World Equestrian Games||24-29 Aug||12|
|Wheelchair fencing||World ranking points||starts 1 Sept||40|
|Judo||World championship||1-7 Sept||13|
|Table tennis||World ranking points||starts 1 Oct||140|
|Swimming||Qualifying standard||starts 15 Oct||360|
|Athletics||Qualifying standard||starts 15 Oct||167|
|7-a-side football||Asian Para Games||18-24 Oct||1 or 2 teams|
|Sitting volleyball||Asian Para Games||18-24 Oct||2 teams|
|Wheelchair tennis||Asian Para Games||18-24 Oct||2|
|Equestrian||World ranking points||starts 1 Nov||54|
|5-a-side football||World ranking points||13-25 Nov||1 team|
|Para-cycling||World ranking points||ends 31 Dec||70|