Race to qualify for Rio 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games starts in 2014

Places at world’s biggest sporting event will start to be claimed this year, with equestrian, basketball and sailing among the first

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Pau Gasol and his Spanish team-mates will try to secure a place at Rio 2016 via this year’s basketball world cup  (Photo: Getty Images/Eric Gay)
Pau Gasol and his Spanish team-mates will try to secure a place at Rio 2016 via this year’s basketball world cup (Photo: Getty Images/Eric Gay)

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.

Imagem Rio 2016

Six sitting volleyball teams will qualify for the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games this year (photo: Getty Images/Dan Kitwood)


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.

SportQualification methodDatesRio 2016 places
Imagem Rio 2016TriathlonWorld ranking pointsstarts 15 May88
Imagem Rio 2016Mountain BikeWorld ranking pointsstarts 25 May66
Imagem Rio 2016JudoWorld ranking pointsstarts 30 May352
Imagem Rio 2016BMX cyclingWorld ranking pointsstarts 31 May43
Imagem Rio 2016WeightliftingWorld ranking pointsstarts 19 June175 teams/15 individ
Imagem Rio 2016GolfWorld ranking pointsstarts 14 July118
Imagem Rio 2016Road cyclingWorld ranking pointsstarts 15 July189
Imagem Rio 2016FootballWomen's Copa AmericaAugTBC
Imagem Rio 2016Equestrian dressageWorld Equestrian Games24-29 Aug3 teams
Imagem Rio 2016Equestrian eventingWorld Equestrian Games27-31 Aug6 teams
Imagem Rio 2016Esquestrian jumpingWorld Equestrian Games31 Aug-7 Sept5 teams
Imagem Rio 2016BasketballMen's world cup30 Aug-14 Sept1 team
Imagem Rio 2016ShootingWorld championship6-20 Sept64
Imagem Rio 2016SailingWorld championship8-21 Sept138
Imagem Rio 2016HockeyAsian Games18 Sept-4 Oct2 teams
Imagem Rio 2016BasketballWomen's world cup27 Sept-5 Oct1 team
Imagem Rio 2016Rugby sevensWorld Sevens Seriesstarts 1 Oct8 teams
Imagem Rio 2016ShootingAmericas qualification tournament11-20 Oct11
Imagem Rio 2016BoxingWorld ranking pointsstarts Nov17
Imagem Rio 2016HandballEuropean qualification tournament7-21 Dec1 team
SportQualification methodDatesRio 2016 places
Imagem Rio 2016BocciaWorld ranking pointsstarts 1 Jan68
Imagem Rio 2016ShootingQualifying standardstarts 1 JanTBC
Imagem Rio 2016EquestrianQualifying standardstarts 1 JanTBC
Imagem Rio 2016Wheelchair tennisWorld ranking pointsstarts 1 Jan56
Imagem Rio 2016Para-cyclingWorld ranking pointsstarts 1 Jan70
Imagem Rio 2016PowerliftingQualifying standard12 April140
Imagem Rio 2016Sitting volleyballWorld championship15-21 June4 teams
Imagem Rio 2016GoalballWorld championship26 June-6 July6 teams
Imagem Rio 2016ShootingWorld championship17-26 July63
Imagem Rio 20167-a-side footballEuropean championship20 July-4 Aug1 or 2 teams
Imagem Rio 2016Wheelchair rugbyWorld championship1-10 Aug1 team
Imagem Rio 2016SailingWorld championship16-25 Aug39
Imagem Rio 2016EquestrianWorld Equestrian Games24-29 Aug12
Imagem Rio 2016Wheelchair fencingWorld ranking pointsstarts 1 Sept40
Imagem Rio 2016JudoWorld championship1-7 Sept13
Imagem Rio 2016Table tennisWorld ranking pointsstarts 1 Oct140
Imagem Rio 2016SwimmingQualifying standardstarts 15 Oct360
Imagem Rio 2016AthleticsQualifying standardstarts 15 Oct167
Imagem Rio 20167-a-side footballAsian Para Games18-24 Oct1 or 2 teams
Imagem Rio 2016Sitting volleyballAsian Para Games18-24 Oct2 teams
Imagem Rio 2016Wheelchair tennisAsian Para Games18-24 Oct2
Imagem Rio 2016EquestrianWorld ranking pointsstarts 1 Nov54
Imagem Rio 20165-a-side footballWorld ranking points13-25 Nov1 team
Imagem Rio 2016Para-cyclingWorld ranking pointsends 31 Dec70


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