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Olympic volleyball at Tokyo 2020: Top five things to know about Olympic volleyball at Tokyo 2020

Here is your guide to volleyball at the Olympics at the Tokyo 2020 Games this summer in 2021.
By Alessandro Poggi

Volleyball is one of 33 sports that will take place at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 in 2021.

The sport returns to the place where it made its Olympic debut in 1964.

But which are the teams to watch for? Where will games take place? Here is our guide to the top things to know about Olympic indoor volleyball.

Top Olympic volleyball teams at Tokyo 2020

Reigning Olympic champions Brazil and the People’s Republic of China will be the the teams to beat in the men's and women's competitions.

Brazil’s men were undefeated throughout the 2019 FIVB World Cup season, eventually being crowned champions. MVP of the tournament was Alan Souza, star of Sada Cruzeiro, while setter Bruno Rezende is chasing his fourth consecutive Olympic medal, after two silvers and one gold.

Poland will be one of their main challengers: the 2018 world champions can field Wilfredo Leon, the 'Cristiano Ronaldo of volleyball', who was named best outside spiker in the 2019 FIVB World Cup Dream Team. Leon previously won silver for Cuba at the 2010 world championships, before going on to represent Poland.

China lead the women’s game as the back-to-back FIVB World Cup champions. Four of their players received individual awards, with star player Zhu Ting winning her second MVP award in a row.

Serbia are current world champions with Rio 2016 silver medallist Tijana Boskovic named the tournament's MVP in 2018. During the event held in Japan, Italy's Paola Egonu caught the attention of the fans when she topped the scoring charts with an astonishing 324 points.

Olympic volleyball venue at Tokyo 2020

The indoor volleyball competition will take place at the Ariake Arena. The multi-sport venue was one of the six permanent facilities built for the Games and will also host the wheelchair basketball competitions during the Summer Paralympics in 2021.

Olympic volleyball competition format at Tokyo 2020

In both men and women volleyball at Tokyo 2020, the 12 teams qualified are divided into two pools of six teams with each pool playing a round-robin. The top four teams of each pool advance to the quarterfinals and the final round is played in a knock-out system.

Volleyball matches are played to the best of five sets. Each set is played to 25 points with a team needing a two-point advantage to win the set. When a team wins a point they serve next. The first team to win three sets takes the match but when the match is tied at two sets each, the final set is played to 15 points.

Volleyball at Tokyo 2020 - Competition Format
Picture by 2020 FIVB

Olympic volleyball schedule at Tokyo 2020

Competition runs from 24 July to 8 August 2021, with the preliminary rounds concluding on 2 August and the elimination rounds beginning on 3 August.

The preliminary round matches will be held on alternate days for men and women, each day including six matches in three sessions of two.

For the first time in history the competition will conclude with the women's final, on Sunday, August 8, just a few hours ahead of the Tokyo 2020 Closing Ceremony and one day after the men's gold is decided.

All times are in Japan Standard Time (UTC +9 hours).

Tue 3 August 19:00 - 22:00

  • Men's quarterfinals (9:00; 13:00; 17:00; 21:30)

Wed 4 August

  • Women's quarterfinals (9:00; 13:00; 17:00; 21:30)

Thu 5 August

  • Men's semifinals (13:00; 21:00)

Fri 6 August

  • Women's semifinals (13:00; 21:00)

Sat 7 August

  • Men's bronze medal match (13.30)
  • Men's gold medal match (21:15)

Sun 8 August

  • Women's bronze medal match (9.00)
  • Women's gold medal match (13:30)

Olympic volleyball history

Volleyball has been part of the Olympic programme since Tokyo 1964.

Brazil with three gold medals, along with the United States and the former Soviet Union with two, are the most successful men's teams.

In the women's tournament only five nations have won the Olympic title across 14 editions: the former Soviet Union (four golds), Cuba and China (three), Brazil and Japan (two).

Netherland's 1996 gold medallist Bas van de Goor was the only player to be named MVP twice (1996 and 2000), while USA's three-time Olympic champion Karch Kiraly is the only player to have won Olympic gold medals in both indoor (1984, 1988) and beach volleyball (1996).

Cuba's Ana Fernandez was the most successful player in Olympic history with three gold and one bronze from 1992 to 2004.

At Rio 2016, China's women's coach Lang Ping became the first person in volleyball history to have won Olympic gold both as a player (1984) and as a coach.

Lang stars in the Olympic Channel's latest Five Rings Films documentary "The Iron Hammer", which will premiere soon.