Lausanne, April 15, 2008 - The SWATCH FIVB World Tour makes its first visit to the Czech Republic in the 22-year history of the international Beach Volleyball circuit as Prague hosts the men's qualifying event for the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games.
The US$175,000 Prague Open, the third of 20 men’s events the 2008 SWATCH FIVB World Tour calendar, will be staged May 6-11 at Štvanice Stadium in the Czech Republic capital situated on the River Vltava in central Bohemia. Although Prague is the country's first SWATCH stop, the Czech Republic has staged FIVB Challenger events in Karlovy Vary (1997) and Brno (2006 and 2007).
The Prague Open will open "officially" May 7 with a single-elimination Qualification Tournament to determine the final eight spots in the 32-team double-elimination Main Draw. The "money" rounds begin May 8 with the medal matches set for May 11 where the gold medal winning team will share the $28,000 first-place prize. Depending on the number of entries per country, Country Quota matches are scheduled for May 6.
After opening the season in Australia (Adelaide, March 25-30) and China (Shanghai, April 28-May 3), the inaugural Prague Open is the first of 12-straight events on the European continent during a 13-week period. The Prague Open will be the 211th men’s SWATCH FIVB World Tour event, including the 129th in Europe.
The Prague Open is also one of 10 new sites on 2008 SWATCH FIVB World Tour calendar. In addition to Adelaide and Prague, other new sites on the 2008 international Beach Volleyball schedule are set for Guaruja (Brazil), Sanya (China), Osaka (Japan), Myslowice (Poland), Moscow (Russia), Barcelona and Mallorca (Spain), and Dubai (United Arab Emirates).
A total of 113 men's teams from 40 countries have entered the Prague Open (as of April 14, 2008), including Angola, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belarus, Brazil, Canada, China, Croatia, Cuba, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Serbia, Slovak Republic, Spain, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland, the Ukraine, the United States and Venezuela.
While the current entry list is expected to change prior to the opening day of competition during the first full week in May, the Prague Open will attract one of the largest fields in SWATCH FIVB World Tour history. The record for most event entries was established in 2002 when a stop in the Swiss Alp village of Gstaad attracted 106 men's Beach Volleyball teams to break the previous mark of 103 for a 1998 Berlin stop.
The Prague Open is the 20th of 29 qualifying events for the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games as the process started in May 2007 and concludes July 20 after a 2008 SWATCH FIVB World Tour stop in Marseille, France. With the Beijing field featuring 24 teams per gender with no more than two tandems per country, a pair's best SWATCH eight finishes will be considered when determining the field for the Summer Games in the Chinese capital.
Following the Prague Open, the men's SWATCH FIVB World Tour continues in Europe for the next eight weeks starting with events in Italy (Roseto degli Abruzzi, May 13-18) and Croatia (Zagreb, May 20-25). The next SWATCH FIVB World Tour double gender event is set for Barcelona, Spain (May 26-June 1). The women are idle the week after Shanghai with Asian stops the next two weeks in Korea (Seoul, May 13-18) and Japan (Osaka, May 20-25) before heading to Barcelona.