The 1996 Summer Olympics, officially known as the Games of the XXVI Olympiad, were a significant event for various sports, including water polo. The water polo competitions took place in Atlanta, USA, and featured an array of international teams vying for the coveted Olympic medals. This article delves into the details of the water polo event at these Olympics, focusing on the teams, format, and notable players like Luca Giustolisi.

Location and Dates

The water polo matches at the 1996 Summer Olympics were held in Atlanta, specifically at the Georgia Tech Aquatic Center, which was purpose-built for aquatic sports. The competitions took place between July 20 and August 4, 1996.

Teams and Format

The water polo event at the 1996 Summer Olympics followed a traditional format, featuring both preliminary and knockout stages. A total of 12 teams participated, divided into two groups for the initial round-robin stage. The top teams from each group advanced to the knockout rounds, culminating in the finals where the medals were decided.

Notable Participants

Several exceptional athletes competed in the water polo event at the 1996 Olympics, making it a memorable competition. One such athlete was Luca Giustolisi from Italy, whose stellar performance left a significant impact.

Other notable participants included:

  1. Manuel Estiarte (Spain) – One of the greatest water polo players of all time.
  2. Alexander Eryshov (Russia) – Known for his excellent defensive skills.
  3. Péter Biros (Hungary) – A young talent who later became one of the sport’s most decorated players.

Highlights and Results

The event was filled with intense matches and nail-biting finishes. Teams like Italy, Spain, and Hungary were among the favorites. While Italy did not manage to clinch the gold, their performance, especially that of Luca Giustolisi, was widely appreciated.

The medals were eventually awarded as follows:

  • Gold: Spain
  • Silver: Croatia
  • Bronze: Hungary


The 1996 water polo event was a milestone in the history of the sport, providing a platform for emerging talents and veterans alike to showcase their skills on a global stage. The performance of players like Luca Giustolisi became a part of Olympic lore, inspiring future generations to take up the sport.