Volleyball at the Summer Olympics
|Volleyball at the Summer Olympics|
|Events||2 (men: 1; women: 1)|
The history of Olympic volleyball can be traced back to the 1920 Summer Olympics in Paris, where volleyball was played as part of an American sports demonstration event. Its addition to the Olympic program, however, was given only after World War II, with the foundation of the FIVB and of some of the continental confederations. In 1957, a special tournament was held at the 53rd IOC session in Sofia, Bulgaria, to support such request. The competition was a success, and the sport was officially introduced in 1964. The Olympic Committee initially dropped volleyball for the 1968 Olympics, meeting protests.
The volleyball Olympic tournament was originally a simple competition, whose format paralleled the one still employed in the World Cup: all teams played against each other team and then were ranked by wins, set average and point average. One disadvantage of this round-robin system is that medal winners could be determined before the end of the games, making the audience lose interest in the outcome of the remaining matches.
To cope with this situation, the competition was split into two phases: a "final round" was introduced, consisting of quarterfinals, semifinals and finals. Since its creation in 1972, this new system has become the standard for the volleyball Olympic tournament, and is usually referred to as the "Olympic format".
The number of teams involved in the games has grown steadily since 1964. Since 1996, both men's and women's indoor events count 12 participant nations. Each of the five continental volleyball confederations has at least one affiliated national federation involved in the Olympic Games.
The first two editions of the volleyball Olympic tournament were won by the Soviet Union team. Third in 1964 and runner-up in 1968, Japan won gold in 1972. In 1976, the introduction of a new offensive skill, the back row attack, helped Poland win the competition over the Soviets in a very tight five-setter.
In 1980, many of the strongest teams in men's volleyball belonged to the Eastern Bloc, so the American-led boycott of the 1980 Summer Olympics did not have as great an effect on these events as it had on the women's. The USSR collected their third Olympic gold medal with a 3-1 victory over Bulgaria.
With a Soviet-led boycott in 1984, the United States confirmed their new volleyball leadership in the Western World by sweeping smoothly over Brazil at the finals. In that edition a minor nation, Italy, won its first medal, but Italy would rise to prominence in volleyball in later years.
A long-awaited confrontation between the western and eastern volleyball leaders came in 1988: powerplayers Karch Kiraly and Steve Timmons pushed the USA to a second gold medal setting the issue in favor of the Americans.
In 1992, Brazil upset favorites Unified Team, Netherlands, and Italy for a first Olympic championship. Runner-up Netherlands, with Ron Zwerver and Olof van der Meulen, came back in the following edition for a five-set win, again over Italy. In spite of their success in other competitions, Italy did not fare well at the Olympics. After winning bronze in 1996, Serbia and Montenegro, led by Vladimir and Nikola Grbić, beat Russia at the finals in 2000 to secure the gold (in 1996 and 2000 they played under the name Federal Republic of Yugoslavia).
In 2008, United States beat Brazil in the final, winning the third gold medal. Russia won the bronze for the second time.
Gold medals appear to be more evenly distributed in men's volleyball than in women's: United States and the former Soviet Union have three; and Brazil, two; the remaining four editions of the Volleyball Olympic Tournament were won each by a different country. The remaining major force, Italy, is runner-up to the USSR in total number of medals, but still lacks a gold medal.
The opening edition of the volleyball Olympic tournament, in 1964, was won by Japan, the host nation. There followed two victories in a row by the Soviet Union, in 1968 and 1972. Korea was expected to get first gold beating Japan in 1975 Pre-Olympic Games but Japan came back again in 1976 for one last Olympic gold before losing the status of volleyball superpower.
In 1984, the Eastern bloc was, in its turn, boycotting the games, and once more many strong volleyball nations like the USSR, East Germany and Cuba did not participate. In spite of this, and much to the distress of local fans, host nation USA lost the finals in straight sets to a communist nation, China. With eastern and western nations again involved in the Olympics, the USSR obtained a remarkable victory over Peru after trailing 0-2 in 1988's finals. This was the most dramatic female match according to the official FIVB's first century tape. However, the 1988 games were marred by the boycott of Cuba.
1992 saw a new force go down in Olympic history: organized under the name Unified Team, the remnants of former Soviet Union went as far as the finals, but did not resist the power play of the young, rising Cuban squad. Led by superstars Mireya Luis and Regla Torres, Cuba would eventually set the record for consecutive wins in the Olympic Games by also taking the gold in 1996 and 2000.
In 2008, Brazil finally won the gold, beating the United States. China was awarded the bronze.
The volleyball Olympic tournament has a very stable competition formula. The following rules apply:
- Twelve teams participate in each event.
- Host nations are always pre-qualified.
- Three teams qualify through the World Cup.
- Five teams qualify as winners of continental qualification tournaments.
- The three remaining berths are decided in world qualification tournaments.
- The competition has two phases.
- For the first phase, called qualification round, teams are ranked by the FIVB World Rankings and then divided in two pools of six teams using the serpentine system. The host nation is always ranked 1.
- At the qualification round, each team plays one match against all other teams in its pool. Top four teams in each pool advance, the remaining two leave the competition.
- At the second phase, usually called final round, teams play quarterfinals, semifinals and finals.
- For the final round, matches are organized according to the results obtained in the qualification round. Let the top four teams in each pool be A1, A2, A3, A4; B1, B2, B3, B4. Quarterfinals would then be: A1xB4; A2xB3; A3xB2; A4xB1.
- Winners of quarterfinals play semifinals as follows: (A1/B4) x (A3/B2); (A2/B3) x (A4xB1).
- At the finals, winners of semifinals play for the gold, and losers for the bronze.
- The tournament implements very tight line-up restrictions: only twelve players are allowed, and no replacement is permitted, even in case of injuries.
The following tables shows the nations that have participated in Olympic volleyball. For each Games, the final rank of each team is shown, or left blank if the team did not participate in those Games. An equals sign in front of the rank indicates that more than one team tied for that rank. Light grey regions in the table indicate that the nation did not exist with that designation at that time. The right-hand column lists the number of times each country has participated in the Olympic volleyball tournament.
|Serbia and Montenegro||=5||1|
- List of indoor volleyball World Champions
- List of Olympic venues in volleyball
- Beach volleyball at the Summer Olympics
- Official website of the FIVB
- Official website of the IOC
- Official website of the 2004 Summer Olympic Games