Since 1996, the Olympic volleyball tournament has featured 12 men's teams and 12 women's teams competing for Olympic gold. Each team is made up of 12 players, but only six players are on the court playing at any one given time.
How Volleyball Teams Qualify for the Olympic Games
There are several different ways in which volleyball teams can qualify to compete at the Olympic Games. Generally, the host country qualifies automatically. After that, 11 spots remain up for grabs, and each country can only qualify one team.
Three teams receive automatic berths based on performances at World Cup events, and five teams qualify by winning continental qualifying tournaments. The last three teams are awarded spots based on their performances during the World Qualifying tournament.
After qualifying for the Olympic Games, it is up to each team's respective national governing body and Olympic committee to decided which athletes will represent the country at the Olympic Games. The athletes who help qualify the country do not necessarily have to be the ones who compete in the Olympic tournament; though, frequently, many of the same players find themselves on the Olympic team.
How the Olympic Volleyball Tournament Works
Once the final 12 teams are decided and rosters have been set, the teams are divided into two pools of six. The tournament begins with a round robin, which means that every team plays every other team in the pool. The top four teams in each pool advance to the elimination round.
Advancing teams play against one another in a quarterfinal, semifinal and final round, and the teams that lose in the quarterfinal round are eliminated from the tournament. The teams that win in the semifinal round head to the finals to play for the gold medal, while the teams that lose in the semifinal round play for the bronze medal.
Scoring During the Olympic Volleyball Tournament
In order to advance during the Olympic volleyball tournament, a team must win three of five sets. The first four sets are scored to 21, and a team must win a set by at least two points.
Should the final and fifth set be required, the two teams only play to 15. Once again, the winning team must outscore the opponent by at least two points. If a team reaches 15 or 21 and is only one point ahead, as in the case of a 21-20 score, for example, the set will continue until one team has won by two points.
Volleyball at the London 2012 Olympic Games
The volleyball tournaments at the London Olympic Games are scheduled to take place from Saturday, July 28, 2012-Sunday, Aug. 12, 2012. Games from the men's and women's tournament alternate days, so women will play on the first day, and men will play on the second. In short, the women's tournament is scheduled to be held on odd days, while the men's tournament is scheduled to be held on even days.
The preliminary rounds continue through Aug. 6, 2012, and the quarterfinal rounds will begin on Aug. 7, 2012. For the women, the medal matches are scheduled be held on Aug. 11, 2012, and for the men, the medal matches are scheduled to be held on Aug. 12, 2012.
Sandra Johnson is a longtime Olympic fan. While working for the United States Olympic Committee and living in the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo., Johnson had the opportunity to immerse herself in the Olympic Movement. Follow her on Twitter: @SandraJohnson46.
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