London 2012

Press release

Olympic Countdown 1980: Soviets reign supreme back in the USSR

Russia highlighted both the men's and women's tournaments in front of their home fans in Moscow (photo: Ria Novosti)

Lausanne, Switzerland, April 5, 2012 – Prior to 1980 the USSR had only once failed to reach the final of either the women’s or the men’s Olympic volleyball competitions. Indeed between them their teams had lost only five matches in the nascent history of Olympic volleyball. Now, with home advantage and some of their most serious rivals absent because of the political boycott, the stage was set for more Soviet success and the Moscow public was not to be disappointed.

Ten men's and eight women's teams involving 216 players took part in the 1980 Olympic volleyball competitions, while the 49 matches were watched by just over 100,000 spectators in two different halls at the Central Lenin Stadium (now the Luzhniki Stadium). Despite the boycott the men’s tournament featured six of the top eight from the 1978 World Championship in Rome, including of course the hosts themselves who were the reigning world champions.

The USSR duly won their pool at a canter, with defending Olympic champions Poland taking the other. But in the semifinals, while USSR beat Romania in straight sets, Poland surprisingly lost to Bulgaria. In the final the Bulgarians were no match for the USSR who won 3-1 (15-7, 15-13, 14-16, 15-11) despite conceding a set for only the second time in the tournament.

Besides Bulgaria and Romania, who took the bronze medal, other nations to make significant progress in men’s volleyball in Moscow included Yugoslavia, who came sixth on their Olympic debut, and fifth-placed Brazil who achieved their best finish yet.

Unfortunately the women’s competition was more affected by the boycott with the likes of China, Japan, Korea and USA, four of the top six teams from the 1978 World Championship, all missing out. However with legendary coach Nikolai “Howling Wolf” Karpol at the helm who is to say the gold medal would not have gone to the Soviet Union?

With the experience of Lyudmila Chernyshova and Olga Solovova allied to the power and youth of Yelena Akhaminova the host nation proved too strong for all of their opponents, including world champions Cuba who failed to live up to their billing. In the final the USSR beat East Germany 3-1 (15-12, 11-15, 15-13, 15-7) while Bulgaria, invited to take part at the eleventh hour, won the bronze medal on their debut.

This article is one of a series in the run-up to the London 2012 Olympic Games as the FIVB looks back at previous Olympic volleyball tournaments.

For week one’s piece on the Tokyo 1964 Olympic Games click here

For week two’s piece on the Mexico City 1968 Olympic Games click here

For week three’s piece on the Munich 1972 Olympic Games click here

For week four’s piece on the Montreal 1976 Olympic Games click here

Download highresolution

| More

More press releases

27.12.2012 14:44:20
Olympic Beach Volleyball review – What to expect in Rio?
Lausanne, Switzerland, December 27, 2012 - As part of an end-of-year review series, the FIVB takes a look back at the success of beach volleyball at t... More...
26.12.2012 09:41:42
Olympic Volleyball review - Stunning finals highlight terrific tournament
Lausanne, Switzerland, December 26, 2012 - As part of an end-of-year review series, the FIVB takes a look back at the outstanding volleyball competiti... More...
20.12.2012 17:11:37
Beach volleyball voted one of the highlights of London 2012
Lausanne, Switzerland, December 20, 2012 – Beach volleyball has been named as one of the highlights of the 2012 London Olympic Games by More...
12.09.2012 18:24:41
Brink and Reckermann handling celebrity well
Lausanne, Switzerland, September 12, 2012 – With Europe’s first beach volleyball gold around their necks, Brink and Reckermann have become genuine... More...
28.08.2012 16:58:48
Walsh reflects on May-Treanor retirement, while her career moves ahead
Lausanne, Switzerland, August 28, 2012 – As three-time Olympic champion Kerri Walsh appears to have wrapped up her 2012 season, the FIVB looks back ... More...
24.08.2012 17:25:22
May-Treanor's retirement brings an end to the sport's greatest pairing
London, Great Britain, August 24, 2012 – Three weeks after the end of the London Olympics, the FIVB reflects on the amazing team of Misty May-Treano... More...
22.08.2012 09:57:22
Russia sets the bar high, but expect big changes from Brazil and USA, says Tom Hoff
Lausanne, Switzerland, August 22, 2012 - In a final retrospective on the London Olympics, former USA captain Tom Hoff talks about the Russian players ... More...
21.08.2012 14:57:51
Olympic beach volleyball sand distributed
London, Great Britain, August 20, 2012 - Over 4,000 tons of sand has been donated by The London 2012 Organising Committee (LOCOG) from the temporary b... More...
12.08.2012 18:31:48
Russia come from behind to win Olympic title after 32 years, Brazil and Italy get silver and bronze
London, Great Britain, August 12, 2012 – The last day of action of the men’s volleyball tournament at Earls Court provided all fans with the right... More...
12.08.2012 18:30:00
Brazilian legend Giba calls time on career
London, Great Britain, August 12, 2012 – Brazil captain and legend Giba has called time on his 20-year international career after the heart-breaking... More...