Played as part of the American Sports Demonstration Event, the historic track of Olympic volleyball dates back to the 1924 Paris Summer Olympics. After the founding of FIVB in 1945 and creation of other continental Federations, volleyball was officially announced as an Olympic sport. A special tournament was organized by the International Olympic Committee in 1957 where its success has included volleyball in the 1964 Summer Olympics in Japan as a competing sport.
The early tournament for volleyball involves a round-robin system where all participating nations played against each other. The medal winners were then based on number of wins, set average and point average. The disadvantage of this kind of ranking system is that the medal winners could be determined before the end of the tournament. In effect, the thrill of the tournament was lost and audience were no longer interested to watch the games.
In the 1972 Olympics held in Germany, the ranking system was modified to cope up with the declining situation of the sport and to gain audience interest once and for all. This modification includes the addition of an elimination round which further includes quarterfinals, semifinals and the final round where only the best team meet to grab a chance of the Olympic medal. Since then, the number of teams participating in Olympic volleyball has started to grow and once again volleyball has regained its popularity.
As far as Olympic medals is concerned, the former Soviet Union has won the men’s gold medal in 1964, 1968 and 1980 Olympic games. Japan, after winning the bronze in 1964 and silver in 1968, got the men’s gold medal in 1972 while the women’s gold went to them 1964 and 1976. Poland got the gold for men’s volleyball in 1976 after a tight 5-set match against the Soviets. Poland’s win was attributed to the introduction of the back-row attack as a new offensive skill. The United States only got their first gold medal in men’s volleyball after the former Soviet Union boycott the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles. Led by Karch Kiraly and Steve Timmons, the United States was able to secure its second gold medal during the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, Korea. China’s women’s volleyball also got the gold in 1984 and 2008. In the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona in Spain, Brazil was considered underrated, yet it was able to defeat Italy in the finals earning their first Olympic gold in men’s volleyball which was followed by another gold medal in the 2004 games held in the very birthplace of the Olympics. Winning their first ever gold medal, not just in the sport of volleyball but in the Olympics in general, Serbia and Montenegro beat Russia in an upset match.
As the next Olympic in 2020 to be held in Japan, Olympic volleyball will be as popular as ever with participating nations preparing to become a stronger team and this only means one thing: intense volleyball action. So, who’s your bet on the next Olympic?
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