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Last Updated: Friday, 4 June 2004, 14:44 GMT 15:44 UK
Variety provides spice
Lauren celebrates victory in 2000
Cameroon got their hands on gold at the Sydney Olympics

The Olympic tournament was the forerunner to the World Cup.

Although it has undeniably been superceded by the World Cup, the Olympics can boast a rich history.

Pele always said an African team would win the World Cup in the 20th century, but that prediction fell flat with the likes of Brazil, Argentina and Germany dominating the roll of honour.

Conversely, at the Olympics, variety is the watchword of the winners' rostrum.

Gold medals have gone to Europe, North America, South America and, most recently, Africa, with Nigeria and Cameroon winning titles at each of the last two tournaments.

Along with water polo, football is the oldest team sport played at the Olympics having been introduced in 1900.

And like water polo, Great Britain took gold at the inaugural event when they were represented by Upton Park FC.

Great Britain won further golds in 1908 and 1912, a feat of back-to-back titles Uruguay matched in 1924 and 1928 prior to the sport's only absent year in Olympic history, the 1932 Los Angeles Games.

At the next five tournaments the title was shared by five different countries, Yugoslavia finally winning gold in 1960 after losing three successive finals.

One of those five winners, Hungary, dominated the event in the 60s winning 18 successive games to land consecutive golds and take their overall tally to three.

Since 1968 eight different countries have won the tournament, with the Soviet Union in 1988 the only previous winners.

And in that time the competition has won a higher profile with professionals being allowed to play since 1984 and a woman's tournament being introduced in 1996 when the USA won on home soil.

Four years ago Norway took the second gold in the women's event, beating the USA in the final, while Cameroon won the men's title, the 17th different country to win the event.

MEDAL TABLE
Country Gold Silver Bronze Total
Men (since 1900; top five)
Hungary 3 1 1 5
Great Britain & NI 3 0 0 3
Soviet Union 2 0 3 5
Uruguay 2 0 0 2
Denmark 1 3 1 5
Yugoslavia 1 3 1 5
Women (since 1996)
USA 1 1 0 2
Norway 1 0 1 2
Austria 0 1 0 1
Germany 0 0 1 2





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