At the FIVB, we are creating fans, not just spectators. We are creating an entertainment spectacle, not just a sporting event, and we are inspiring millions around the world to take up a sport which can be played by everyone at every time, everywhere.
Volleyball is unequivocally in a golden era of success and it is set to be the signature event at the Olympic Games in Rio. But it is my job to ensure this positive development is maintained, so we can continue spreading volleyball’s values across the globe as we aim to become the number one family sport entertainment in the world.
In Rio, we will witness the greatest ever Olympic volleyball competitions. Tickets for both disciplines have topped organisers’ lists and the passionate Brazilian fans will provide the ultimate environment for world-class competition. Where football is a religion in Brazil, volleyball is the number one sport and the Games will showcase the love, passion and enthusiasm for the sport, which runs deep in Brazilian society.
For beach volleyball, this will be an extra special Olympic event as we celebrate the 20th anniversary of its inclusion on the Olympic Programme. The 1996 Atlanta Games introduced beach volleyball to the world and the 2016 Rio Games will inspire the world as beach volleyball returns to its spiritual home on the iconic Copacabana Beach.
The volleyball competition will be equally impressive in the historic Maracanãzinho which has proved its hosting credentials over the years by staging a number of FIVB flagship competitions, including the FIVB World League Finals last year. It has all the ingredients to be a show-stopping event. And, for the very first time at an Olympic Games, we will have our very own Volleyball House as we look to maximise the opportunities from the Games.
Volleyball has witnessed unprecedented worldwide growth over the past few years; the sport has undergone a process of rapid modernisation and innovation as we have embraced the latest cutting-edge sports technology. Last year’s FIVB World League Finals in Brazil saw an LED net being used for the first time in a Finals.
The net can display scores, sponsors’ logos, flags, countdowns and refereeing decisions, and has gone on to become a popular feature at our events, along with the Challenge System.
We are also fortunate to have the support of dedicated partners who share our vision for the sport. Our partnership with Swatch and the Beach Major Company – a joint venture between Hannes Jagerhofer (Acts) and Red Bull – has revolutionised beach volleyball competitions through the Major Series and prioritises creating an innovative and dynamic sports product with mass appeal. We consider innovation as the key to educating our fans; by enhancing their understanding we can facilitate a greater appreciation of the sport.
Over the past few years we have seen a surge in the sport’s popularity. At the 2015 Beach Volleyball World Championships in the Netherlands, a four-city host concept was introduced, which was an overwhelming success. A record total attendance of 106,000 fans from around the world experienced sold-out matches across the Netherlands. Similarly, the 2014 FIVB Volleyball Men’s World Championship in Poland attracted a world-record crowd – more than half a million fans watched the matches of the first and second rounds – and the 2014 Women’s World Championship in Italy were also an overwhelming success.
We will not become complacent, though, and will use Rio as a springboard to take our sport to the next level. Looking ahead, we have the 2018 edition of the Volleyball Men’s World Championship being held in Italy and Bulgaria, and the women’s event taking place in Japan before Tokyo 2020.
This year the European Volleyball Federation (CEV) organised the first ever snow volleyball European Tour. This is a new exciting variation of the sport, which is captivating the attention of athletes, fans and sponsors alike. Similar to beach volleyball, snow volleyball looks to harness the support of the crowd to create a party atmosphere with entertaining and engaging activities, including loud pumping music and deck chairs for spectators to watch the action from.
This new discipline reinforces the inclusiveness of volleyball and its adaptability to environments, resources and cultures, and is an example of the values promoted in our VolleyballYourWay campaign.
As we look ahead beyond Rio, we have the FIVB’s nine goals to direct our future development and build on the sport’s success. Goal No.1 is to move volleyball from group two to group one in the IOC ranking and I have every confidence that with our loyal fans, dedicated athletes and a shared vision among our volleyball family, it will not be long before we achieve this.