Eye-catching Olympic hockey pitch part of a movement to make the sport more visually appealing

hockey pitch
The pitches at the Olympic Hockey Centre represent the colours of the Brazilian flag. (Buda Mendes/Getty Images)

Take a bird’s eye view of Deodoro Olympic Park and it’s hard to miss the pitches at the Olympic Hockey Centre.

Unlike hockey’s traditional green pitches, the Rio 2016 turf is bright blue with a green border and white lines. Add in the yellow ball used in competition and you have the colours of the Brazilian flag.

“I like playing the blue pitch,” Great Britain defender Henry Weir said following a training session on one of the practice pitches at the Olympic Hockey Centre. “It’s got more of a ‘wow’ factor. It’s very Rio and it’s very flash.”

The Rio pitch builds on the successful debut of the blue playing surface at the London 2012 Games – the first time the colour was used in a major international hockey competition. When hockey switched to artificial turf in the 1970s, playing surfaces were coloured green to mimic the look of natural grass.

The move to blue was made to draw in new fans watching on TV.

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“I think they originally did it for TV coverage,” Weir said. “They found the blue pitch and yellow ball were easier to see.

“The blue pitch definitely televises much better than it used to. The speed of the game translates much better to TV. It’s much more exciting.”

How the Olympic Games ushered in hockey’s blue period

The London Games appear to have started a trend that will continue well after the Rio Games. “There are a lot of blue pitches in New Zealand,” Black Sticks striker Blair Hilton said.

“I think everyone started building them before London because they thought it was going to be a big new thing.”

Rio 2016 venues map

The British team installed a Rio-style blue-and-green pitch in its training facility in preparation for the Games. Weir says the turf looks sharp and plays fast, something that should help sell the sport to a global Olympic audience.

hockey pitch
Stephane Vehrle-Smith (l) fights for the ball during the Rio 2016 Test Event between Brazil and Chile (Buda Mendes/Getty Images)

“The pitch is playing great,” he said. “A good pitch you want to play fast and you want it to stay true and stay flat. It’s perfect.”