Olympic Volleyball

The sport of Volleyball has two Olympic disciplines: Volleyball and Beach Volleyball. Volleyball made its Olympic debut at the 1964 Tokyo Games and Beach Volleyball made its Olympic debut in Atlanta in 1996. The International Olympic Committee adopted Volleyball as a non-Olympic sport in 1949. Eight years later, on September 24, 1957, the IOC session in Sofia recognised Volleyball as an Olympic sport and FIVB as the sole worldwide Volleyball governing body in all its disciplines. In 1961, Volleyball was added as a medal sport for men and women at the Tokyo Games in 1964.

Tokyo 1964
Volleyball's debut at the Olympic Games in 1964 was truly exciting. In the men's event, the well-informed Japanese spectators and TV viewers were enthusiastic witnesses to a captivating three-way battle between USSR, Japan and Czechoslovakia.  USSR ultimately prevailed, pushing the Czechs into second place after beating them in five sets halfway through the tournament. Japan, after a surprising defeat to Hungary in the second round, had to be content with bronze. All went as expected in the women's event as Japan, 1962 FIVB World Championship winners in Moscow, claimed gold. Led by coach Hirofumi Daimatsu, the hosts beat USSR into second place and gave up only one set in six matches, to eventual bronze medallists Poland.

Mexico City 1968
At the 1968 Games in Mexico City the USSR Men, with a revamped lineup that saw eight changes from the team in Tokyo, won gold again. The Soviets started off badly, losing 3-2 to USA, but bounced back and toppled the reigning world champions at the time, Czechoslovakia, in the decisive match. Japan then edged the Czechs for second place. In the women's event, the Soviets' physical prowess and inventiveness made sure they were able to turn the tables on the Japanese to finish first. The Japanese lacked a little in the playmaking department to lose the title after a 3-1 defeat in the final match. Poland finished third.

Munich 1972
Munich 1972 was when the Japan Men's team finally struck gold, after bronze in Tokyo and silver in Mexico City. The magic hands of Katsutoshi Nekoda inspired the Japanese and their gold was endangered only in the semi-final against Bulgaria, when Japan trailed by two sets before prevailing in a match lasting 3 hours, 40 minutes. East Germany took second place, USSR third. In the women's grand finale, USSR outstripped Japan in the fifth set. Never before had the two strongest teams both so deserved the gold medal. The key match was a spectacular show, with the agile and speedy Asians against the powerful and service-perfect Soviets. North Korea took bronze.

Montreal 1976
Head Coach Hubert Wagner led the Polish Men to Olympic gold at the 1976 Games in Montreal. The inventive Polish did away with the Soviets, who had reached the gold-medal match without losing a single match, and confirmed their status as best in the world having won the FIVB World Championship in Mexico two years earlier. Wagner's troops came back from two sets behind in the elimination round against Korea and Cuba, struggled in the semi-finals against the Japanese and in the final brought applause from the 15,000 spectators in Montreal's Coliseum by beating USSR in 2 hours, 30 minutes. Bursting onto the international stage was Cuba with a well-deserved bronze. In the women's event, the Soviet-Japanese seesaw at the top lost no momentum. This time gold was won by the Asians in spectacular style: no sets were lost and 11 of 12 sets won were with less than 10 points going to the opponents. Japan took just 55 minutes to dispose of USSR in the final. Outstanding too were bronze medallists South Korea, led by Jo Heajung, a formidable spiker just 1.65 metres tall.

Moscow 1980
The Western boycott (absent women's teams included holders Japan, Korea and rising stars USA and China) affected the fifth Olympic Women's Volleyball Tournament, making it more of a European Championship dominated, as usual, by USSR. Silver went to East Germany and bronze to Bulgaria, who were called up at the last minute. Much was expected of the Cubans but they disappointed. On the men's side, the boycott didn't mean as much upheaval. Six of the top eight competing at the 1978 FIVB World Championship in Rome took part, and, in line with the forecasts, Head Coach Viacheslav Platonov's USSR took the title, losing only two sets in the course of the whole tournament. Runners-up were Bulgaria (silver) and Romania (bronze).

Los Angeles 1984
The political withdrawal of the Eastern countries from the 1984 Los Angeles Games did not significantly damage the women's tournament (Cuba and USSR, the biggest of the absentees, had finished only fifth and sixth at the FIVB World Championship in 1982). The event saw a fascinating dual between debutantes China and hosts USA. The Asians pulled the same trick they had at the FIVB World Championship in Peru after losing in the preliminary stage to USA they won in the final. It was a tremendous blow for the stars-and-stripes super team. On an individual level, China's Ping Lang stood head and shoulders above the rest. In the men's tournament, USSR, Cuba, Poland and Bulgaria were missing for political reasons. Two months before the start, Italy, China, South Korea and Tunisia were assigned as replacements. The hosts were the winners, silver medallists were Brazil and bronze medallists Italy.

Seoul 1988
In South Korea in 1988, the only high-profile absentees were the men's and women's Cuban teams as the Olympic Games got back to normal in Seoul. In the men's tournament, 12 teams competed (something that had not happened since 1972) and the final results almost accurately mirrored the outcome of the 1986 FIVB World Championship in Paris, with USA on top, USSR second and a Brazilian band of "veterans" fourth. It was Argentina who pulled off a surprise third-place finish, though, with Bulgaria who were third in Paris finishing sixth. The Netherlands finished fifth. In the women's event, USSR started off by stumbling against Japan (19-17 in the fifth set) but came back in style, shutting out the Chinese champions in the semi-finals (the first set ended 15-0) and coming from behind in a spectacular final against Peru. China's third place marked the end of a fantastic winning streak in international competition that had began in 1981.

Barcelona 1992
Brazil's Men claimed their first Olympic gold in Barcelona in 1992, losing only three sets in eight matches, after the four "favourites" all failed to hit top gear: reigning world champions Italy and CIS (formerly USSR) went out in the quarter-finals, returning Cuba and outgoing champion USA lost in the semi-finals, although USA claimed bronze. The Netherlands won silver after a disappointing start that saw them lose three matches and finish fourth in the group phase. On the women's side, Cuba claimed gold, the Caribbean team finishing unbeaten with their most difficult match coming in the semi-finals against USA (where they came back from 2-1 down). USSR finished second and USA third. The Asian teams didn't fare well at all, with Japan fifth and China seventh.

Atlanta 1996
With the likes of the Van de Goor brothers Bas and Mike and Peter Blangé, a strong Netherlands Men's outfit reached the pinnacle of their time together as a team by claiming Olympic gold, beating Italy, whose ranks included the likes of Andrea Zorzi, Samuele Papi and Andrea Giani, in the final in a five-setter. Yugoslavia made a statement of intent when, led by the Grbic brothers Vladimir and Nikola, they claimed bronze. In the women's tournament, Cuba retained their gold, the second of three-in-a-row for the likes of Regla Torres, one of the greatest players ever to grace the game. The Cubans beat China in the final, with Brazil claiming the bronze medal.

Sydney 2000
The Cuban Women did what seemed the impossible by claiming their third-straight Olympic gold in Sydney, a stunning achievement that will be tough to match in the future. It was the culmination of an astonishing run that saw two FIVB World Championship golds 1994 and 1998 in between the Olympic triumphs in 1992, 1996 and 2000. The Cubans beat Russia into the silver medal position, with Brazil picking up their second-straight bronze medal. On the men's side, Yugoslavia improved on their bronze medal in Atlanta by claming gold, the Grbic brothers Nikola and Vladimir, Goran Vujevic and a young Ivan Miljkovic combining to devastating effect. Russia finished in second place and Italy third.

Athens 2004
The Chinese Women pulled off an astonishing turnaround to beat Russia and win Olympic gold at the Peace and Friendship Stadium in Athens. Trailing by two sets, China hauled themselves back into the match to win 3-2. It marked the end of an excellent 12 months for the Chinese, who had won the FIVB World Cup and FIVB World Grand Prix in 2003. It was even more of a triumph for Head Coach Zhonghe Chen's team considering they were missing Ruirui Zhao, one of their star players, for most of the tournament through injury. Cuba's run of three straight golds may have come to an end but they consoled themselves with the bronze medal courtesy of beating Brazil 3-1. The Brazilian Men, on the other hand, lived up to their tag as favourites by claiming their second Olympic gold after their 1992 success. Most Valuable Player Giba was the star of the tournament as the Brazilians, who had won the 2002 FIVB World Championship, 2003 FIVB World Cup and 2003 and 2004 FIVB World League, put the icing on the cake for Head Coach Bernardo Rezende with a 3-1 win over Italy in the gold-medal final. Russia swept USA 3-0 to claim bronze.

Beijing 2008
USA Men kept the momentum from their FIVB World League triumph in Rio in July 2008 in their run to the gold-medal match, where they beat 2004 Athens champions Brazil for their first Olympic title in 20 years. Their female compatriots surprised many with their own run to the final and but for the world No. 1 Brazilians as close to perfection as could be throughout the tournament, dropping just one set in the final to USA it would have been a golden sweep for America. The Americans had two non-natives to thank for their success: men's Head Coach Hugh McCutcheon of New Zealand and women's Head Coach "Jenny" Ping Lang, the former Chinese national team player and Head Coach known as the "Iron Hammer" who played and won against USA in 1984, the American women's only previous attempt at gold. It was an astonishing turnaround for the U.S. players and testament to the strength of the coaches' mental and tactical strengths. The men's team had just two years before finished in 10th place in the FIVB World Championships and World League, while the women's team ended up ninth at the 2006 World Championships. The Brazilian Women, meanwhile, had Head Coach Jose Roberto Guimaraes to thank for their omnipotent performance. "Ze Roberto" became the first coach to lead teams to Olympic gold in both the men's and women's tournaments following his Barcelona 1992 triumph with the Brazil Men's team. Russia claimed bronze in the men's event, China took bronze in the women's.

London 2012 ...
The Volleyball venue in 2012 will be the famous Earls Court exhibition centre in West London.


Hosts Japan attack on their way to gold at the 1964 Tokyo Games

Mexico City 1968: Men's gold medallists USSR against silver medallists Japan

Japan's Seiji Oko spikes on his way to claiming gold at Munich 1972

The Japanese women celebrate their gold at the 1976 Games in Montreal

Moscow 1980: The Soviet Men won on home soil alongside the USSR Women

Los Angeles 1984: The Chinese Women were too strong for the rest of the field

Karch Kiraly was an integral part of the American Men's gold rush at Seoul 1988

Barcelona 1992: The beginning of the Cuban Women's Olympic dynasty

Netherlands Men beat Italy to win gold at the 1996 Atlanta Games

Vladimir Grbic and Yugoslavia came good
at the 2000 Sydney Games

China beat Japan on the way to winning
the women's final at Athens 2004

William Priddy helped lead USA past
Brazil in the men's final at Beijing 2008