was in 1952 when FIVB hosted the first women's
Volleyball World Championship in Moscow with just eight
teams competing - seven from Europe plus India. In this,
the first of an event that went on to be held over a
four-year cycle, the title went to the Soviet Union,
with Poland second and Czechoslovakia (now after the
peaceful split with Slovakia, the Czech Republic),
taking the bronze medal.
Four years later the World
Championship were staged in Paris, the home of FIVB
founder and long-time President, Paul Libaud. Again the
Soviet Union took the gold medal, an achievement they
repeated four years later in Rio de Janeiro. But by that
stage, a powerful Japanese team had emerged to steal the
limelight. Japan won the silver medal at Rio, but went
on to twice win the title in 1962 (Moscow) and at home
in Tokyo in 1967, where the USA first stepped into the
limelight to take the silver medal.
The Soviets reemerged four years later
at Bulgaria’s Black Sea port of Varna to defeat Japan in
the final and reclaim the title, but Japan returned the
favor in Guadalajara, Mexico in 1974.
The Championship then went to
Leningrad (now St. Petersburg) in 1978 when Cuba and
Japan shut the Soviets out of the title, taking gold and
silver respectively and leaving them only the bronze
But in 1982, in Lima, Peru, a new era
was launched when China won the title for the first
time, then went on to retain their title in 1986 in
Prague, Czechoslovakia, only to lose it again to the
Soviets in Beijing four years later. That was the last
year that the Soviet Union competed as a nation.
The last two World Championship titles
have gone to Cuba – in 1994 São Paulo, Brazil and Tokyo,
Japan in 1998.
This year the championship returns to
Western Europe for the first time since 1956, when
Germany plays hosts to this premiere sporting event.