Volleyball at the Summer Olympics

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For the outdoor event, see Beach volleyball at the Summer Olympics.
Volleyball at the Summer Olympics
Volleyball (indoor) pictogram.svg
Governing body FIVB
Events 2 (men: 1; women: 1)
Games
  • 1896
  • 1900
  • 1904
  • 1908
  • 1912
  • 1920
  • 1924
  • 1928
  • 1932
  • 1936
  • 1948
  • 1952

Volleyball has been part of the Summer Olympics program for both men and women consistently since 1964.

Brazil, United States, and the former Soviet Union, are the only teams to win multiple gold medals at the men's tournament since its introduction. The remaining five editions of the Men's Olympic Volleyball Tournament were won each by a different country including Japan, Poland, Netherlands, Russia and the defunct Yugoslavia.

Gold medals are less evenly distributed in women's volleyball than in men's; the fourteen editions of the Women's Olympic Volleyball Tournament were won by only five different countries: Brazil, Cuba, China, Japan and the former Soviet Union.

History[edit]

Origins[edit]

The history of Olympic volleyball can be traced back to the 1924 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 during 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.[1]

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 number of 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.

Events[edit]

Event 64 68 72 76 80 84 88 92 96 00 04 08 12 16 Years
Men's tournament X X X X X X X X X X X X X X 14
Women's tournament X X X X X X X X X X X X X X 14
Events 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 28

Men's winners[edit]

Men's volleyball preliminary round match between Bulgaria (green) and Argentina (white/blue) at the 2012 Summer Olympics.

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 Soviet Union 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 decades. A long-awaited confrontation between the western and eastern volleyball leaders came in the 1988 final: powerplayers Karch Kiraly and Steve Timmons pushed the United States to a second gold medal setting the issue in favor of the Americans.

In 1992, Brazil upset favorites Unified Team, Netherlands, and Italy for their 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 over Italy. In spite of their success in other major volleyball competitions in the 1990s, Italy did not fare well at the Olympics. After winning bronze in Atlanta, 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 2004, Brazil beat Italy in the final, adding a second gold medal to its record and confirming its role as the men's volleyball superpower of the 2000s. In 2008, United States beat Brazil in the final, winning their third gold medal. Russia won the bronze for the second time by defeating Italy. In the 2012 final, Russia came back from a 0–2 set deficit, not letting Brazilians take advantage of any of their 2 match points in the third set. Dmitriy Muserskiy scored 31 points, which is an Olympic Games record in a final. Italy defeated Bulgaria and took Bronze.[2]

After coming up short in the previous two editions of the Olympics as runners-up, the Brazilians captured their third gold medal in the history of the competition playing home in 2016 after their straight-set victory against Italy in the final.[3] The United States pulled off a comeback from a 0–2 deficit to claim the bronze medal with a victory over Russia.[4]

Gold medals appear to be more evenly distributed in men's volleyball than in women's: former Soviet Union (three titles), United States (three) and Brazil (three) are the only teams to have won the tournament more than once. The remaining four editions were won each by a different country. Despite being a major force in men's volleyball since the 1990s, Italy is still the only volleyball powerhouse that lacks a gold medal at the Olympic Games.

Women's winners[edit]

Women's Volleyball semifinals at the 2012 Summer Olympics.

The opening edition of the volleyball Olympic tournament, in 1964, was won by the host nation Japan. There followed two victories in a row by the Soviet Union, in 1968 and 1972. South Korea was expected to get their first gold after beating Japan in the 1975 Pre-Olympic Games, but Japan came back again in 1976 for one last Olympic gold before losing their status of women's volleyball superpower.

The American-led boycott of the 1980 Games left many strong volleyball nations like Japan and South Korea out of the games. As a result, the Soviet Union easily secured a third Olympic gold medal. In 1984, the Eastern bloc was, in its turn, boycotting the games, and once more many strong volleyball nations like the Soviet Union, East Germany and Cuba did not participate. In spite of this, and much to the distress of local fans, host nation United States lost the finals in straight sets to a communist nation, China. With eastern and western nations again involved in the Olympics, the Soviet Union obtained a remarkable victory over Peru after trailing 0–2 in 1988's marking one of the most dramatic female matchs of the 20th century. The 1988 games were, however, marred by the Cuban boycott.

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 against China and Russia, respectively.

In 2004, the winner was once again China. Second was Russia who beat Brazil in a very tough and dramatic semifinal match after being down 1–2, 19–24 in the fourth set.

In 2008, Brazil finally won the gold, beating the United States in the final and losing only one set in the competition. China was awarded the bronze by beating Cuba. After a troubled start, Brazil secured the double gold in 2012 after beating favorites United States once again the final.[5] Japan won the bronze medal after defeating South Korea.

In 2016, home team Brazil was favorite to once again win the title, thus equalling Cuba's three consecutive gold medals between 1992 and 2000. After winning all of their preliminary round matches without dropping a set, the team was, however, stunned by a young chinese squad in a tiebreaker in the quarterfinals. China went on to win the title, their third in olympic history, by beating Serbia in four sets in the gold medal match.[6] In the process, Lang Ping became the first person to win a gold medal as a player in Los Angeles 1984 and repeat the feat now as a coach in Rio de Janeiro.[7] China also became the first team to win the olympics after losing three matches in the preliminary round. The United States defeated Netherlands 3–1 to capture the bronze medal.[8]

The fourteen editions of the women's tournament were won by only five different countries: Brazil, China, Cuba, Japan and the former Soviet Union. Despite becoming a women's volleyball powerhouse in the 21st century, United States still lacks an olympic gold.

Competition formula[edit]

The volleyball Olympic tournament has a very stable competition formula. The following rules apply:

Qualification
  • Twelve teams participate in each event.
  • Host nations are always pre-qualified.
  • Two teams qualify through the Men's and Women's World Cup (this number was reduced from three prior to the 2016 Summer Olympics).
  • Five teams qualify as winners of continental qualification tournaments.
  • The four remaining berths are decided in world qualification tournaments.
Competition format
  • 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 (group A); and B1, B2, B3, B4 (group B). 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.

Men's tournaments[edit]

Results summary[edit]

Year Host Gold medal match Bronze medal match Teams
Gold Medalists Score Silver Medalists Bronze Medalists Score 4th place
1964
Details
Japan
Tokyo

Soviet Union
Round-robin
Czechoslovakia

Japan
Round-robin
Romania
10
1968
Details
Mexico
Mexico City

Soviet Union
Round-robin
Japan

Czechoslovakia
Round-robin
East Germany
10
1972
Details
West Germany
Munich

Japan
3–1
East Germany

Soviet Union
3–0
Bulgaria
12
1976
Details
Canada
Montreal

Poland
3–2
Soviet Union

Cuba
3–0
Japan
10
1980
Details
Soviet Union
Moscow

Soviet Union
3–1
Bulgaria

Romania
3–1
Poland
10
1984
Details
United States
Los Angeles

United States
3–0
Brazil

Italy
3–0
Canada
10
1988
Details
South Korea
Seoul

United States
3–1
Soviet Union

Argentina
3–2
Brazil
12
1992
Details
Spain
Barcelona

Brazil
3–0
Netherlands

United States
3–1
Cuba
12
1996
Details
United States
Atlanta

Netherlands
3–2
Italy

Yugoslavia
3–1
Russia
12
2000
Details
Australia
Sydney

Yugoslavia
3–0
Russia

Italy
3–0
Argentina
12
2004
Details
Greece
Athens

Brazil
3–1
Italy

Russia
3–0
United States
12
2008
Details
China
Beijing

United States
3–1
Brazil

Russia
3–0
Italy
12
2012
Details
United Kingdom
London

Russia
3–2
Brazil

Italy
3–1
Bulgaria
12
2016
Details
Brazil
Rio de Janeiro

Brazil
3–0
Italy

United States
3–2
Russia
12
2020
Details
Japan
Tokyo
12

Participating nations[edit]

Legend
  • 1st – Champions
  • 2nd – Runners-up
  • 3rd – Third place
  • 4th – Fourth place
  •  •  – Did not enter / Did not qualify
  •    – Hosts
  • = – More than one team tied for that rank
  • Q – Qualified for forthcoming tournament
Team Japan
1964
(10)
Mexico
1968
(10)
West Germany
1972
(12)
Canada
1976
(10)
Soviet Union
1980
(10)
United States
1984
(10)
South Korea
1988
(12)
Spain
1992
(12)
United States
1996
(12)
Australia
2000
(12)
Greece
2004
(12)
China
2008
(12)
United Kingdom
2012
(12)
Brazil
2016
(12)
Total
 Algeria 12th 1
 Argentina 6th 3rd 8th 4th =5th =5th =5th 7
 Australia 8th =11th =9th 3
 Belgium 8th 1
 Brazil 7th 9th 8th 7th 5th 2nd 4th 1st 5th 6th 1st 2nd 2nd 1st 14
 Bulgaria 5th 6th 4th 2nd 6th 7th =5th 4th 8
 Canada 9th 4th 10th =5th 4
 China 8th =5th 2
 Cuba 10th 3rd 7th 4th 6th 7th =11th 7
 Egypt WD 10th =11th =11th =9th 5
 France 8th 11th =9th =9th 4
 Germany See  East Germany and  West Germany =9th =5th 2
 Great Britain =11th 1
 Greece =5th 1
 Hungary 6th 1
 Iran =5th 1
 Italy 8th 9th 3rd 9th 5th 2nd 3rd 2nd 4th 3rd 2nd 11
 Japan 3rd 2nd 1st 4th 7th 10th 6th =11th 8
 Libya 10th 1
 Mexico 10th =11th 2
 Netherlands 8th 5th 2nd 1st 5th =9th 6
 Poland 5th 9th 1st 4th =11th =5th =5th =5th =5th 9
 Romania 4th 5th 3rd 3
 Russia See  Soviet Union 4th 2nd 3rd 3rd 1st 4th 6
 Serbia See  Yugoslavia See  Serbia and Montenegro =5th =9th 2
 South Korea 10th 7th 6th 5th 11th 9th =9th =9th 8
 Spain 8th =9th 2
 Sweden 7th 1
 Tunisia 12th 9th 12th =11th =11th =11th 6
 United States 9th 7th 1st 1st 3rd =9th =11th 4th 1st =5th 3rd 11
 Venezuela =9th 1
Discontinued nations
 Czechoslovakia 2nd 3rd 6th 5th 8th See  Czech Republic 5
 East Germany 4th 2nd See  Germany 2
 Serbia and Montenegro See  Yugoslavia 3rd 1st =5th See  Serbia 3[A]
 Soviet Union 1st 1st 3rd 2nd 1st 2nd 7th See  Russia 7[B]
 West Germany 11th See  Germany 1
 Yugoslavia 6th See  Serbia and Montenegro See  Serbia 1

Women's tournaments[edit]

Results Summary[edit]

Year Host Gold medal match Bronze medal match Teams
Gold Medalists Score Silver Medalists Bronze Medalists Score 4th place
1964
Details
Japan
Tokyo

Japan
Round-robin
Soviet Union

Poland
Round-robin
Romania
6
1968
Details
Mexico
Mexico City

Soviet Union
Round-robin
Japan

Poland
Round-robin
Peru
8
1972
Details
West Germany
Munich

Soviet Union
3–2
Japan

North Korea
3–0
South Korea
8
1976
Details
Canada
Montreal

Japan
3–0
Soviet Union

South Korea
3–1
Hungary
8
1980
Details
Soviet Union
Moscow

Soviet Union
3–1
East Germany

Bulgaria
3–2
Hungary
8
1984
Details
United States
Los Angeles

China
3–0
United States

Japan
3–1
Peru
8
1988
Details
South Korea
Seoul

Soviet Union
3–2
Peru

China
3–0
Japan
8
1992
Details
Spain
Barcelona

Cuba
3–1
Unified Team

United States
3–0
Brazil
8
1996
Details
United States
Atlanta

Cuba
3–1
China

Brazil
3–2
Russia
12
2000
Details
Australia
Sydney

Cuba
3–2
Russia

Brazil
3–0
United States
12
2004
Details
Greece
Athens

China
3–2
Russia

Cuba
3–1
Brazil
12
2008
Details
China
Beijing

Brazil
3–1
United States

China
3–1
Cuba
12
2012
Details
United Kingdom
London

Brazil
3–1
United States

Japan
3–0
South Korea
12
2016
Details
Brazil
Rio de Janeiro

China
3–1
Serbia

United States
3–1
Netherlands
12
2020
Details
Japan
Tokyo
12

Participating nations[edit]

Legend
  • 1st – Champions
  • 2nd – Runners-up
  • 3rd – Third place
  • 4th – Fourth place
  •  •  – Did not enter / Did not qualify
  •    – Hosts
  • = – More than one team tied for that rank
  • Q – Qualified for forthcoming tournament
Team Japan
1964
(6)
Mexico
1968
(8)
West Germany
1972
(8)
Canada
1976
(8)
Soviet Union
1980
(8)
United States
1984
(8)
South Korea
1988
(8)
Spain
1992
(8)
United States
1996
(12)
Australia
2000
(12)
Greece
2004
(12)
China
2008
(12)
United Kingdom
2012
(12)
Brazil
2016
(12)
Total
 Algeria =11th =11th 2
 Argentina =9th 1
 Australia =10th 1
 Brazil 7th 7th 6th 4th 3rd 3rd 4th 1st 1st =5th 10
 Bulgaria 3rd 1
 Cameroon =11th 1
 Canada 8th 8th =9th 3
 China 1st 3rd 7th 2nd 5th 1st 3rd =5th 1st 9
 Croatia Part of  Yugoslavia 7th 1
 Cuba 6th 5th 5th 1st 1st 1st 3rd 4th 8
 Dominican Republic =11th =5th 2
 Germany See  East Germany and  West Germany 8th 6th =9th 3
 Great Britain =9th 1
 Greece =9th 1
 Hungary 5th 4th 4th 3
 Italy =9th =5th =5th =5th =9th 5
 Japan 1st 2nd 2nd 1st 3rd 4th 5th =9th =5th =5th 3rd =5th 12
 Kenya =11th =11th 2
 Kazakhstan Part of  Soviet Union =9th 1
 Mexico 7th 1
 Netherlands 6th 5th 4th 3
 North Korea 3rd 1
 Peru 4th 7th 6th 4th 2nd =11th =11th 7
 Poland 3rd 3rd =9th 3
 Puerto Rico =11th 1
 Romania 4th 8th 2
 Russia See  Soviet Union 4th 2nd 2nd =5th =5th =5th 6
 Serbia See  Yugoslavia See  Serbia and Montenegro =5th =11th 2nd 3
 South Korea 6th 5th 4th 3rd 5th 8th 6th 8th =5th 4th =5th 11
 Spain 8th 1
 Turkey =9th 1
 Ukraine Part of  Soviet Union =11th 1
 United States 5th 8th 2nd 7th 3rd 7th 4th =5th 2nd 2nd 3rd 11
 Venezuela =11th 1
Discontinued nations
 Czechoslovakia 6th 7th See  Czech Republic 2
 East Germany 6th 2nd 5th See  Germany 3
 Soviet Union 2nd 1st 1st 2nd 1st 1st 2nd See  Russia 7[B]
 West Germany 8th 6th See  Germany 2

Medal table[edit]

Total[edit]

Rank Nation Gold Silver Bronze Total
1 Russia[C] 8 8 3 19
2 Brazil 5 3 2 10
3 United States 3 3 4 10
4 Japan 3 3 3 9
5 China 3 1 2 6
6 Cuba 3 0 2 5
7 Serbia[D] 1 1 1 3
8 Netherlands 1 1 0 2
9 Poland 1 0 2 3
10 Italy 0 3 3 6
11 Germany[E] 0 2 0 2
12 Bulgaria 0 1 1 2
Czech Republic[F] 0 1 1 2
14 Peru 0 1 0 1
15 Argentina 0 0 1 1
North Korea 0 0 1 1
Romania 0 0 1 1
South Korea 0 0 1 1
Total 28 28 28 84

Medal table, men[edit]

Rank Nation Gold Silver Bronze Total
1  Russia[C] 4 3 3 10
2  Brazil 3 3 0 6
3  United States 3 0 2 5
4  Japan 1 1 1 3
5  Netherlands 1 1 0 2
6  Serbia[D] 1 0 1 2
7  Poland 1 0 0 1
8  Italy 0 3 3 6
9  Czech Republic[F] 0 1 1 2
10  Bulgaria 0 1 0 1
 Germany[E] 0 1 0 1
12  Argentina 0 0 1 1
 Cuba 0 0 1 1
 Romania 0 0 1 1
Total 14 14 14 42

Medal table, women[edit]

Rank Nation Gold Silver Bronze Total
1  Russia[C] 4 5 0 9
2  China 3 1 2 6
3  Cuba 3 0 1 4
4  Japan 2 2 2 6
5  Brazil 2 0 2 4
6  United States 0 3 2 5
7  Germany[E] 0 1 0 1
 Peru 0 1 0 1
 Serbia 0 1 0 1
10  Poland 0 0 2 2
11  Bulgaria 0 0 1 1
 North Korea 0 0 1 1
 South Korea 0 0 1 1
Total 14 14 14 42

MVP by edition[edit]

Win-loss records[edit]

Men's tournament[edit]

Team Matches played Wins Losses Winning percentage
 Algeria 6 0 6 .000
 Argentina 47 22 25 .468
 Australia 18 4 14 .222
 Belgium 9 2 7 .222
 Brazil 105 64 41 .610
 Bulgaria 60 32 28 .533
 Canada 22 7 15 .318
 China 12 3 9 .250
 Cuba 47 22 25 .468
 Czechoslovakia 37 24 13 .649
 East Germany 16 11 5 .688
 Egypt 20 1 19 .050
 France 23 9 14 .391
 Germany 11 3 8 .273
 Great Britain 5 0 5 .000
 Greece 6 3 3 .500
 Hungary 9 4 5 .444
 Iran 6 2 4 .333
 Italy 79 51 28 .646
 Japan 56 32 24 .571
 Libya 5 0 5 .000
 Mexico 14 0 14 .000
 Netherlands 45 26 19 .578
 Poland 56 31 25 .554
 Romania 22 14 8 .636
 Russia 48 32 16 .667
 Serbia 11 3 8 .273
 Serbia and Montenegro[A] 22 15 7 .681
 South Korea 51 16 35 .314
 Soviet Union 51 41 10 .804
 Spain 13 4 9 .308
 Sweden 7 3 4 .429
 Tunisia 33 1 32 .030
 United States 79 47 32 .595
 Venezuela 5 1 4 .200
 West Germany 6 1 5 .167
 Yugoslavia 6 3 3 .500

Women's tournament[edit]

Team Matches played Wins Losses Winning percentage
 Algeria 10 0 10 .000
 Argentina 5 1 4 .200
 Australia 6 1 5 .167
 Brazil 67 45 22 .672
 Bulgaria 5 3 2 .600
 Cameroon 5 0 5 .000
 Canada 15 1 14 .067
 China 60 39 21 .650
 Croatia 8 4 4 .500
 Cuba 52 37 15 .712
 Czechoslovakia 12 4 8 .333
 Dominican Republic 11 3 8 .273
 East Germany 15 7 8 .467
 Germany 21 7 14 .333
 Great Britain 5 1 4 .200
 Greece 5 1 4 .200
 Hungary 15 7 8 .467
 Italy 29 15 14 .517
 Japan 68 41 27 .603
 Kazakhstan 5 1 4 .200
 Kenya 10 0 10 .000
 Mexico 7 1 6 .143
 Netherlands 21 11 10 .524
 North Korea 5 3 2 .600
 Peru 37 12 25 .462
 Poland 17 9 8 .530
 Puerto Rico 5 0 5 .000
 Romania 10 4 6 .400
 Russia 42 29 13 .690
 Serbia 19 7 12 .368
 South Korea 68 27 41 .397
 Soviet Union[B] 37 32 5 .865
 Spain 4 0 4 .000
 Turkey 5 2 3 .400
 Ukraine 5 0 5 .000
 United States 74 43 31 .581
 Venezuela 5 0 5 .000
 West Germany 10 2 8 .200

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b Serbia and Montenegro's total includes two appearances as Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in 1996 and 2000.
  2. ^ a b c Soviet Union's total includes one appearance as Unified Team in 1992.
  3. ^ a b c FIVB considers Russia (Since 1993) as the inheritor of the records of Soviet Union (1948–1991) and Unified Team (1992).
  4. ^ a b FIVB considers Serbia (Since 2007) as the inheritor of the records of Yugoslavia (1948–1991), Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (1992–2002) and Serbia and Montenegro (2003–2006).
  5. ^ a b c After the German reunification, West Germany (1949–1990) was renamed Germany (Since 1991) and absorbed East Germany (1949–1990) with the records.
  6. ^ a b FIVB considers Czech Republic (Since 1994) as the inheritor of the records of Czechoslovakia (1948–1993).

References[edit]

External links[edit]