LAUSANNE, Switzerland, Wednesday, June 18 - The International Volleyball Federation (FIVB) announced on Wednesday the dates, pools and venues for their premier annual competition for women, the $1 Million World Grand Prix, to be held in Italy this year.
The tournament will now be played in three cities in southern Italy - Gioia del Colle, Matera and Andria - all near Bari, from July 21 to August 3. The draw for the pool matches will be confirmed next week.
The success of the competition in previous years has seen the number of teams expand from eight to 12 in 2003. These 12 teams have been split into two pools with Pool A consisting of hosts Italy, the USA, Cuba, Japan, the Netherlands and Germany while World No 1 and defending World Grand Prix champions Russia is joined by China, Brazil, Canada, Thailand and Korea in Pool B.
During the Preliminary Round both groups will play in a round-robin format, contesting three matches per day in the cities of Gioia del Colle and Matera from July 21-26. The best three teams from each pool will then play off in the Final Round. Hosts Italy automatically qualify for the Final Round but if they fail to finish in the top three of their pool, they will replace the lowest ranked of the two third-placed teams.
Gioia del Colle and Matera will host the Final Round, which will also be played in a round-robin format with three matches per day, from July 28-July 30. On the final weekend, Aug 2-3, matches will be played in one of Italy's best Volleyball venues in Andria. The World Grand Prix champion will be decided on the best win-loss record.
"We are very pleased to have three such superb venues proposed by the Italian Volleyball Federation for what is the elite of women's Volleyball," World Grand Prix project leader Gabrielle van Zwieten said. "The organization and structure put in place has been excellent and we are very happy to be able to maintain the high standards of the World Grand Prix."
Last month the World Grand Prix was moved from its traditional base in Asia to Italy because of the health crisis caused by Severe Acute Respiratory syndrome (SARS). FIVB President Dr. Rubén Acosta explained that the move was made in an effort to preserve this very important women's competition. The FIVB appreciates the understanding that the traditional hosts in Asia have shown for this difficult decision.