Lausanne, Switzerland, June 9, 2008 - The first of six Grand Slam stops on the 2008 SWATCH FIVB World Tour calendar opens in Berlin Monday as five events remain on the schedule before the close of the qualifying process for the Beijing Olympic Games.
The US$600,000 smart Grand Slam, the fifth double gender SWATCH FIVB World Tour stop in 2008, will be staged in front of the main train station in Berlin at the Washingtonplatz as the German capital hosts an international Beach Volleyball event for the 12th year.
The 24th of 28 qualifying events for women and the 25th of 29 qualifying stops for men for the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games, the smart Grand Slam will feature Country Quota matches Monday for women and Tuesday for men. The qualifiers will be Tuesday for women and Wednesday for men to determine the final eight Main Draw spots.
Featuring pool play elimination rounds, the smart Grand Slam "money" rounds begin Wednesday for women and Thursday for men. The medal matches will be played Saturday for women and Sunday for men as each gold medal team shares the $43,500 first-place prizes.
In addition to increased prize money at the SWATCH FIVB World Tour Grand Slam stops, additional points will be awarded for each placement ranging from eight points for 57th-place to 800 points for a gold medal finish. At an "open" FIVB event, 600 points is awarded for placing first and six points for 57th place.
Headlining the 2008 smart Grand Slam field will be reigning Olympic champions Emanuel Rego/Ricardo Santos of Brazil and Misty May-Treanor/Kerri Walsh of the United States. While the Brazilians have never won a SWATCH stop in Germany since forming their partnership at the end of the 2002 season, May-Treanor and Walsh have won the last two women's events in Berlin.
Emanuel and Ricardo, who won their 32nd FIVB gold medal in 76 international starts together this past Sunday in Stare Jablonki, Poland, have placed third, fourth, 17th and fifth in four previous Berlin starts. The 17th was at the 2005 SWATCH FIVB World Championships where Brazilians Marcio Araujo and Fabio Magalhaes rebounded from a first-round defeat to win nine-straight matches to win the gold medal.
Like May-Treanor and Walsh, Marcio Araujo and Fabio won the 2007 smart Grand Slam title by defeating Germans David Klemperer and Eric Koreng for the title. Phil Dalhausser and Todd Rogers won the Berlin bronze medal last year as the Americans won the 2007 SWATCH FIVB World Championships two weeks later in Gstaad, Switzerland.
The last two women's finals in Berlin have pitted the same two teams vying for the gold medal as May-Treanor and Walsh defeated Brazilians Juliana Felisberta Silva and Larissa Franca both times. May-Treanor also captured the inaugural women's event in Berlin with Holly McPeak before forming her partnership with Walsh the next season.
Following the smart Grand Slam, SWATCH FIVB World Tour Grand Slam stops will be held in Paris, Norway (Stavanger), Moscow and Switzerland (Gstaad) and Austria (Klagenfurt) prior to the Beijing 2008 Olympics. The Paris, Stavanger and Moscow stops are part of the Summer Games process with the final qualifying event set for July 15-20 in Marseille, France.
The Gstaad and Klagenfurt Grand Slams will be tune ups for the Summer Games in the Chinese capital where competition will be held August 9-22. The women's Olympic medal matches will be played August 21 and the men's August 22. Both Beijing fields will feature 24 teams with no more than two pairs per country.
A team's best eight finishes on the SWATCH FIVB World Tour since May 2007 will be used to determine a tandem's Olympic ranking. For European teams, one of the pair's two finishes in the 2007 or 2008 continental championships can be counted. The 2008 European championships will be held in Hamburg, Germany in mid-July.