May 05, 2003 - All eyes will be on Tokyo when the first of four World Olympic Qualification tournaments begin in the Japanese capital on Saturday.
From May 8-16 the Metropolitan Gymnasium will host the Women's World Olympic Qualifying tournament as eight teams vie for four tickets on offer for the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens.
Competing for the right to join Greece, China, Brazil, U.S.A., Germany, Cuba, Dominican Republic and Kenya, who have already qualified for the summer spectacle will be Japan, Korea, Thailand, Chinese Taipei, Italy, Russia, Nigeria and Puerto Rico.
Each team will play each other in a single round-robin format, which also doubles as the Asian Continental Olympic Qualification tournament between hosts Japan, Korea, Thailand and Chinese Taipei. The overall winner of the qualifier will advance to the Olympic Games as will the best placed Asian team (counted as the Asian Continental winner) and the second and third best ranked teams after the winner.
Greece, as hosts, are guaranteed a place at the Games as are China, Brazil and the USA, who finished first, second and third respectively at the 2003 World Cup. Germany's place was assured following their European Continental Qualification tournament while as NORCECA zone runners-up (to the USA) Cuba will be present in Athens. Kenya's overall victory in the African Continental Qualification tournament means they will be present in Greece while the Dominican Republic booked their place after winning the South American Continental Qualification tournament.
Competition starts at 11am (local time) with Chinese Taipei taking on Puerto Rico, followed by Korea versus Thailand, Russia against Nigeria and Italy taking on Japan.
The women's World Olympic Qualifying tournament is followed by a men's version at the same venue and two more men's World Olympic Qualifying tournament's in Porto, Portugal and Madrid, Spain.