PRESS RELEASE 02.12.2003


European Olympic Qualification Tournaments 2004 - Tough groups for favourites

Leipzig, Germany, 2 December 2003 - Just over a month prior to the start of the European Olympic Qualification Tournaments, the drawing of lots for these extremely important events was carried out in Leipzig, Germany on Thursday. Now the teams know their opponents for the preliminary pool phase, the preparation can start.

The men's European Olympic Qualification tournament will be held in Leipzig, Germany from January 5-10. The women's event will take place in Baku, Azerbaijan in the same period. The drawing of lots for these two events of the world's strongest Volleyball continent was carried out in the town hall 'Neues Rathaus' in the German city of Leipzig and was joined by many celebrities, including CEV Vice-President Jan Hronek, Lord Mayor of Leipzig Wolfgang Tiefensee, General Secretary of the Volleyball Federation of Azerbaijan Mr. Eishan Ismayilov and Werner von Moltke, President of the German Volleyball Federation.

"Leipzig and Baku will be the Volleyball capitals of Europe in the first weeks of January," Dr. Hronek stated. "We thank the CEV and the German Volleyball Federation to have the trust in Leipzig and that our city was chosen again for such a major event," Mr. Tiefensee added.

"After the Women's World Championship in 2002 and the Men's European Championship in 2003, this is the third top Volleyball event in Leipzig,' Mr. von Moltke said.

Two European top men's teams are already qualified for the Olympic Games, because they finished among the best three during the World Cup in Japan in the last two weeks of November. European Champion Italy and Olympic Gold Medalist Serbia & Montenegro are already sure of playing in the 2004 Athens Olympics. Even without the two giants, the men's European Olympic Qualification Tournament will be a top class event. Favorite France, runners up at the 2003 European Championships and 2002 World Championship bronze medalists, was drawn in Pool B together with Spain, the Netherlands and Finland. Pool A will be the group of death with favorite Russia, Poland, Germany and Bulgaria.

"All teams who participate in this event are very strong," German head coach Stelian Moculescu analyzed. "I don't think it is a bad draw and as only the winner will go to the Olympics, you have to beat them all."

The women's European Olympic Qualification Tournament is almost a repeat of the European Championships. All the top European teams will be present in Baku, Azerbaijan in the beginning of January. European Champion Poland was drawn in an extremely strong pool with Russia, Germany and host Azerbaijan. In Pool B, World Champions Italy will face the Netherlands Bulgaria and Turkey.

"For both our teams the draw is very good," Hans Hein, President of Provolley and representing the Dutch Volleyball Federation said.

For both the men's and women's European Olympic Qualification Tournament, the competition formula is exactly the same. The eight participants will execute a single round robin competition in the pool phase from January 5-8. The first two teams of each pool proceed to the crossed semifinals, scheduled for January 9. The winner of the final on Sunday January 10 will qualify for the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens. The best non qualified European teams, according to the FIVB World Ranking, will get another chance in May 2004 during the World Qualification Tournaments.