Without a doubt, the biggest volleyball competition out there is the Olympics. Although this takes place just once every four years, it draws a massive global following, from both devoted supporters and those with only a casual interest in the sport. It’s not just indoor volleyball that has its event at the Olympics, beach volley is also well-represented, and one could well argue that this variant has an even bigger following than the indoor game.
Olympic Volleyball Format
There are men’s and women’s events in both indoor and beach volleyball at the Olympics. Each indoor event sees 12 teams entering, while beach volley sees 24 teams taking part.
Teams can qualify for the indoor volleyball event in several ways. The host country automatically qualifies and is then joined by the six top teams from the Intercontinental Qualifiers explicitly created for the Olympics. A single qualifier from each continent makes up the rest of the teams.
Beach volley qualification is a little more complicated. Again, the host nation qualifies, as does the winner of the preceding World Championships. However, the majority of the teams (15 in total) qualify through the FIVB Beach Volleyball Olympic Ranking system. The rest of the qualifiers are drawn from the winners of each continental cup, plus two entrants from an FIVB Olympic Qualification Tournament.
The indoor events start with a preliminary round made up of two groups of six teams, with each team playing each other once. The top four teams from each group then proceed to the knockout stage, starting with the quarter-finals. The top-ranking team from Pool A plays the fourth-ranking team in Pool B, while the second-placed team in Pool A plays the third-ranking team in Pool B and so on. A 3-0 or 3-1 victory in the group stages awards three points, a 3-2 win awards two points, and a 2-3 loss awards one point.
Beach volley starts with six groups of four teams at the preliminary round, with the top two teams from each group guaranteed a spot in the last 16, as well as the two third-placed teams with the best records. The “lucky loser playoffs” decide the final two places for the last 16 in which the remaining third-place teams are paired off into a single playoff match, with the winner of each proceeding to the knockout stages. The results determine the awarded Beach volley points: two points for a win, one for a loss and zero for a forfeit.
After reaching the knockout stages, the winner of each match will progress to the next stage while the loser exits the tournament. The final game will see the winner take Gold, and the loser takes Silver, while a third-place match between the losing semi-finalists will see the winner earn Bronze.
Olympic Volleyball History
Indoor volleyball has been a Summer Olympic event since 1964, with men’s and women’s events taking place in every edition since. Beach volley, though, is a much more recent event, first taking place at the Olympics in 1996.
As of 2016, Brazil, the former Soviet Union and the United States have enjoyed the most success in men’s indoor volleyball, each winning three Golds each. The Soviets also enjoyed tremendous success in the women’s event with four Golds, although China and Cuba are now pushing them close with three Golds a piece. Brazil has also proved to be a force in recent years, winning Gold in 2008 and 2012 and finishing in the top four in each of the four preceding events.
In beach volley, the United States has proven to be the team to beat, winning Gold three times in both the men’s and women’s events. This detail means you should never discount them in your volleyball betting strategy. Again, Brazil is pushing close, having reached the final in five of six events in men’s beach volley and four out of six women’s events.