Menu Close

Volleyball in the Summer Olympics (Best Teams, Rules, History)

Volleyball is a quite popular sport in the Summer Olympics. It’s thrilling and unpredictable. Today, we’re going to talk about volleyball in the Summer Olympics.

Volleyball debuted in the Summer Olympics in 1964 for men and women. The most successful teams are the Soviet Union (7 gold medals), Brazil (5 gold medals), and the USA (3 gold medals).

How volleyball at the Summer Olympic started?

Volleyball definitely isn’t one of the oldest sports in the Summer Olympics. Compared to tennis, fencing, or swimming, volleyball’s history is relatively short.

It all started in 1924. At the Summer Olympics in Paris, volleyball was a demonstration event, only as an addition. People liked it and since that time, volleyball was getting more and more popular. Because of that the FIVB (Fédération Internationale de Volleyball)- the international governing body for all forms of volleyball was created in 1947. The FIVB started requesting volleyball to the Summer Olympics. It didn’t happen immediately. The whole world had to wait another 10 years for the official decision that volleyball will be part of the Summer Olympics.

But no one knew in which Olympics volleyball is going to appear. In 1961, the decision was made. Volleyball was supposed to be initially in the Summer Olympics in 1964, but only for men. After Japan’s request, the FIVB decided to also establish volleyball for women.

Eventually, volleyball debuted in the Summer Olympics in 1964. In the first edition participated 10 men’s and 6 women’s nations, and since that time, the number of teams has grown steadily.

How to qualify for the Summer Olympics?

There are a couple of ways to qualify for the Summer Olympic. In total, there are 4 chances to get qualified. Only 12 teams can participate in this tournament, so it’s best to secure the spot as soon as possible. The same rules apply to men and women.

The only team that doesn’t have to fight in qualifications is the host. We know it really well from other competitions like the European Championship or the World Championship in which hosts are guaranteed to participate. In 2021, Japan is the team that doesn’t need to qualify.

Probably the hardest way to qualify for the Summer Olympics is through the World Cup. It’s the tournament taking place every 4 years in Japan. There are 12 best teams from 5 continents. Teams play with each other once. The team that wins gets 3 points or 2 points (if they win 3:2). The team that has the most amount of points after 11 matches, wins the tournament and gets the qualification for the Summer Olympics. Runner-ups also get the qualification. In the last World Cup in 2019 Brazil and Poland got qualified.

Probably the easiest way to get the qualification is through the Intercontinental Qualifier. It depends, but usually, in this tournament participate 24 teams from all around the world. Those teams are divided into 6 groups, each containing 4 nations. In each group, teams play with each other in the tournament organized in one country. For example, if one group includes Poland, Serbia, Puerto Rico, and Thailand, the whole group plays its matches in one random country, in Serbia for example. The team that wins the group, gets qualified for the Olympic Games.

The last chance to play in the Summer Olympic is by playing in the continental qualifications. Those qualifications usually take place at the beginning of the same year as the Olympic Games, so there isn’t a lot of time for preparations. European qualifications usually include 8 teams that are divided into 2 groups. 2 best teams from each group get the qualification.

Read it: Top 10 Best Volleyball Liberos in The World

What’s the competition formula?

After the qualifying round is over in January, teams have to wait half the year for the Olympics Games to begin. Usually, the Summer Olympics start in June or in August.

In the beginning, all 12 teams are divided into 2 groups of six teams. How do we know which team goes to which group? According to the FIVB ranking and the serpentine system. The first team of the FIVB ranking goes to pool 1, the second team to pool 2, the third to pool one, the fourth to pool 2, and so on…

To better visualize it, look at the table below.

When all teams are placed, it’s time to compete. In both pools, nations play with each other one match. 4 teams from both groups that gather the most amount of points advance, the remaining two leave the competition. So, 2 teams from every group leave, and in total 4 nations go home.

Another phase is the quarterfinals. The team that wins group A plays against the team who was 4th in the group, 2nd team from the group A vs. 3rd team from the group B, 3rd team from A vs. 2nd team from B and 4th team from A vs 1st team from B. Then there are semifinals, final and the bronze medal match.

Just look how it looked like in 2016.

As you can see, Italy won the last Summer Olympics in 2016, having won 3:0 with Brazil in the final.

Best Men’s Teams in the Summer Olympics

Usually, at the Summer Olympics, teams that are in the top 5 in the FIVB ranking win. Now let’s take a look at the most successful men’s volleyball nations of all Summer Olympics since 1964.

1. Brazil- It’s a legendary volleyball nation that wins medals in most Olympic Games. Since 2004, they have won either silver or gold medal every time. In total, they have 6 medals, including 3 golden and 3 silver. Is Brazil #1 team in 2020? Get to know it in this ranking!

2. the Soviet Union- This country doesn’t exist anymore, but it’s still the most successful volleyball nation in the Summer Olympics considering both men’s and women’s volleyball. Men’s team has won 3 gold medals, 2 silver and 1 bronze.

3. USA- This nation prioritizes the Olympic Games. They have the same amount of gold medals in this tournament like in the World Cup and the World Championship together. Overall, 3 gold and 2 bronze medals.

These are the teams that have won at least 1 medal in the Summer Olympics.

Read it: 10 Best Volleyball Players of All Time (Giba, Giani, Bernardi, Etc.)

Best Women’s Teams

Women’s competition is slightly different and less predictable.

1. Soviet Union– An astonishing team that won 6 medals between 1964 and 1988. They have 4 gold and 2 silver medals, and they will still be first even if China or Cuba wins the next Summer Olympics.

2. China- Unlike the men’s team, the women’s China team is one of the best in the world. They have world-class players and have 3 gold, 1 silver, and 2 bronze medals.

3. Cuba- It seems like the Cuban National team’s best time are gone. Their last gold medal in the Summer Olympics was in 2000 in Sydney. They won all their most important medals in the 20th century. In 2004, they earned a bronze medal.

The full table is here

Do you have a moment? These post might be interesting for you: