Lausanne, Switzerland, June 27, 2003 _ The drawing of lots for the International Volleyball Federation's (FIVB) major annual clash in women's volleyball, the World Grand Prix has determined that hosts and current World Champions Italy will meet USA , Japan, Netherlands, Cuba and Germany in Pool A while title holders Russia will meet China, Canada, Korea, Thailand and Brazil in Pool B.
The announcement was made at a press conference held in the Castel del Monte on Thursday afternoon.
Pool play starts July 21 to 26, with one rest day, while resuming on July 25-26. The final will be played in the city of Andria on August 2-3 in the Palasport. The competiton format is single round robin and brings the top 12 teams in the world to Puglia and Basilicata, two southern regions of Italy near the city of Bari.
Senior officials from the Italian Volleyball Federation Sports Events present at the event appealed to the region of Puglia to make every effort to ensure the success of the World Grand Prix, which the Italian Federation considers a "flagship" tournament that can represent a great positive symbol for national sport in Italy.
"Andria is very pleased to organise the finals of the tournament," said the mayor of Andria, Vincenzo Caldarone, who, because of the importance of the occasion, made an exception in allowing the drawing of lots to be held in the fabulous Castel del Monte.
Meanwhile, Pina Marmo the officer in charge of sports for the city said the event will be very good for the area, especially as the administration wanted to invest in sporting activities to provide more recreational opportunities for young people.
Senior official Mr. Franz Schmied attended the occasion to represent the FIVB and its president, Dr. Rubén Acosta.
The World Grand Prix is the FIVB's most prestigious annual women's Volleyball competition and carries a total purse of $1 million. It has been elevated in scale for the 2003 edition from eight to 12 teams, and they represent the crème de la crème of the sport.
Traditionally hosted in various Asian cities, the competition was this year, exceptionally, moved in its entirety to Italy in the face of the health crisis in Asia connected to the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) epidemic.
Announcing the change of location for 2003 in early May, President Acosta said the move had been necessary to preserve the competition, which was very important for the best women's teams in the world. He praised the traditional hosts in Asia and appealed to them to accept the decision in good faith as a necessary measure in special circumstances.