services & publications: international sport:
"FIVB spreads excellence round the world to 218 countries"
by Andrew A. Napier [ aanapier.com ]
article published in FIVB VolleyWorld (June 2006)

The world’s all-round top men’s and women’s Volleyball and Beach Volleyball teams come from four continents: Brazil from South America, USA and Cuba from North & Central America,Russia and Italy from Europe and China from Asia.  Between them they have shared most of the recent medals in the Olympic Games and major FIVB competitions. 

The FIVB’s policy of investing in and organising international competition to create opportunities and to raise standards is bearing fruit worldwide.   Countries like Serbia & Montenegro, Argentina, Poland and Japan are often also performing at the very highest levels, and in Beach Volleyball the performance of Switzerland ’s teams has been a real eye-opener and a source of inspiration to many other countries that have not yet been able to perform at the highest levels in Volleyball.

However this is only part of the story.  The FIVB continues to spread excellence as widely as possible by organising and sanctioning international events throughout the world, facilitating international travel for teams and in thorough and detailed plans to help raise the standard of all 218 of its National Federations - and create the conditions to increase the interest in Volleyball and Beach Volleyball among players, spectators and the media. 

Furthermore the FIVB stands out among Olympic sport federations in organising its sports worldwide so that Olympic qualification is secured through its own top international competitions such as the Volleyball World Cups, the Beach Volleyball World Championships and SWATCH FIVB World Tours - all of which have events across the world and offer significant prize money - as well as the Volleyball Olympic qualification tournaments. 

This in turn brings the most knowledgeable and dedicated supporters and media to the major Volleyball and Beach Volleyball events, including at the Olympic Games - where our sports were among the outstanding successes for on-site spectators and TV coverage in Sydney and Athens.  Both Volleyball and Beach Volleyball promise to be even more so in Beijing 2008 in the wake of China ’s Women’s Volleyball Gold Medal in Athens and the new-found strength of the Chinese women’s teams on this year’s SWATCH FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour.

International spread

This year and next are fine examples of the international spread of top competitions: as well as hosting the Olympic Games in 2008, the 48-team men’s and women’s FIVB Volleyball World Championships final rounds are being held in Asia - in Japan - in October and November, and Japan will also host the FIVB Volleyball World Cup next year, from which three men’s and three women’s teams will qualify for Beijing.

Meanwhile Europe hosts three major finals this year: for the men’s FIVB World League (in Russia, in August), the women’s FIVB Grand Prix (Italy, September), SWATCH FIVB Under-21 World Beach Volleyball World Championships ( Poland, August) and Europe hosts all four SWATCH FIVB Beach Volleyball Grand Slams ( Switzerland, Norway, France and Austria ).  In September the SWATCH FIVB Under-19 FIVB World Beach Volleyball Championships will be held in Bermuda.

The FIVB World League has become a well-tuned logistical masterpiece, with massive international TV coverage: in 2006 the World League is back up from 12 to 16 countries, including Egypt for the first time, with all 16 countries hosting matches and all competing for a place in the Moscow finals and a share of the record $20 million prize money.

The stellar growth of Beach Volleyball under the FIVB’s leadership continues apace, and again this year the SWATCH FIVB World Tour has events on all continents (in the FIVB Oceania is part of the Asian Continental Confederation) and FIVB events in the next tiers down, the Challengers and Satellites, also span the globe and are becoming a much-appreciated stepping-stone towards the top tier.  However this is only part of the story:  some countries without World Tour events - notably the USA, Argentina and Australia - have very strong top-tier teams and excellent and very competitive national tours.

Raising the standards at all levels

For the FIVB spreading excellence also means finding ways to raise the standard of middle-ranking National Federations and those where Volleyball and Beach Volleyball are very much minority sports.  This is a major concern of the FIVB and involves organisation, planning, sharing technical and management skills, finding ways of improving coaching and refereeing and generally helping each National Federation to develop the most appropriate plan for its situation and to help them execute it. 

This, as well as providing finance and equipment, is part of a concerted effort by the FIVB, and is manifested through the World Vision 2012 (which applies to all 218 National Federations) and FIVB development programmes.  With both Volleyball and Beach Volleyball being high-speed, non-contact, drug-free team sports, both sports have enormous social and entertainment value as well as being major professional sports at the highest levels. 

This year saw the opening in Barbados of the FIVB’s ninth Development Centre, to go with those already operating in Tunisia, Senegal, Sudan, Bahrain, India, Thailand, the Dominican Republic and Venezuela.  A new development centre will open next year in Indonesia, and feasibility studies are underway for new Development Centres and International Training Centres in France, Norway, El Salvador, Nigeria and South Africa. 

Furthermore the FIVB’s international Volleyball Co-operation Programmes (which replace the Sports Aid Programme) also play an important role in spreading excellence: its predecessor scheme covered 56 separate courses in 2005.

A separate challenge that the FIVB is also studying is to develop Volleyball and Beach Volleyball in countries where Volleyball and Beach Volleyball are crowded out by other sports.  Of its 218 affiliated National Federations, 36 of the 54 weakest are in Europe, which is also home to many of its strongest.   The FIVB is working with the European Continental confederation, the CEV, to address this challenge.  

World Championships with 170 teams

One of last year’s most impressive achievements was to enable as many teams as possible to participate in the 2006 FIVB World Championships, through organising the qualification matches for the 2006 final rounds in Japan.  For example, with careful seeding in each of three European rounds and play-offs there were evenly matched and exciting matches that hopefully left behind inspiration, hope and a sense of the excitement and enthusiasm that Volleyball generates.

All told, this year’s men’s and women’s FIVB World Championships final rounds in Japan will be the culmination of a remarkable two years in which 170 teams (95 men’s and 75 women’s) have been whittled down to 48, with representation from all continents.

FIVB World Championships final rounds 2006 Japan - 48 teams

Africa

Asia

Norceca

South America

Europe

men

2

6

4

3

9

women

3

5

6

2

8

total

5

11

10

5

17

The FIVB prides itself in offering equality of opportunity to both genders.  After the Men’s and Women’s Volleyball World Championships finals being held in separate countries in 2002 - Argentina for the men and Germany for the women - the two are back together again this year.   An indication of the progress made in developing the sport worldwide is that no fewer than 14 countries have succeeded in qualifying both their men’s and women’s teams for Japan: one from Africa (Egypt), four from Asia (Japan, China, Kazakhstan and Korea), three from Norceca (USA, Cuba and Puerto Rico) one from South America (Brazil) and five from Europe (Russia, Poland, Serbia Montenegro, Italy and Germany.)  There are twenty other countries that have succeeded in qualifying either their men’s or women’s teams for the FIVB World Championships finals.

But, remarkable though they will be as an unparalleled feast of international Volleyball and Beach Volleyball, the FIVB Volleyball World Championships finals and next year’s SWATCH FIVB Beach Volleyball World Championships in Gstaad, Switzerland, will be twin peaks in their respective sports - the next peaks will be in Beijing 2008. 

Volleyball and Beach Volleyball being what they are thanks the FIVB’s drive to spread excellence, you can be sure that whoever becomes World Champion this year or next will be determined also to win Olympic Gold in Beijing in 2008!   ….and whoever misses out in Japan or Switzerland will be inspired to beat the World Champions to the Olympic Gold!

Andrew A. Napier

June 2006