Volleyball at the Olympics: GB team, rules and beach volleyball explained

Everything you need to know about a sport that's often misunderstood.

Volleyball Olympics guide

Volleyball is a much-maligned and misunderstood sport. It’s not all about glamour and stretches of sand – it actually takes a great deal of skill and fitness to win a match and take home a medal.

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While there isn’t any British interest at the Olympics 2020, volleyball – both on court and on the beach – is an entertaining, fast-paced sport to follow, and quickly becomes addictive viewing.

RadioTimes.com brings you up to speed with everything you need to know about volleyball at the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo in the summer of 2021. Plus check out what’s on with our guide to the Olympics on TV today.

When is volleyball at the Olympics?

Volleyball runs from Saturday 24th July all the way until Sunday 8th August.

Medal finals will take place on the final two days of the long-running contest: the men on the 7th, the women on the 8th.

Check out our guide on how to watch Olympics 2020 or see Olympics on TV today for more details, timings, and exclusive expert analysis from some of the biggest names in world sport over the coming weeks.

Sir Chris Hoy, Beth Tweddle, Rebecca Adlington, Matthew Pinsent and Dame Jess Ennis-Hill are among the stars we have to being their esteemed opinions, so don’t miss what they have to say.

Find out how you can watch the Tokyo 2020 Olympics closing ceremony.

Olympic volleyball rules

Two teams of six players play on either side of a net. Each team has a ‘Libero’ – a player with a special defensive role, wearing a different colour top to the rest of the team.

The aim is to get the ball over the net without it coming back to you, much like in tennis – except there’s no racket.

Each team has a maximum of three ‘contacts’ to get the ball over the net.

This means they can pass to another player on their side of the net (i.e. a teammate), who can pass to one more player before the ball has to go to the other team. You do not need to use all three contacts, but you can if it helps.

Points are scored in a variety of ways, e.g. via an ace (again, just like in tennis), or a block, where the opposing team cannot return the ball to you. The team with the most points wins.

Beach volleyball differs in that there are only two players per team and the sport is, rather obviously, played on sand.

When did beach volleyball become an Olympic sport?

Often, when we think of volleyball, we imagine a net set up somewhere along a glorious stretch of beach.

But actually, when it comes to the Olympics, beach volleyball is the young pretender to the court version of the game.

While volleyball was introduced to the Olympics for both men and women in 1964, beach volleyball came much later in 1996, after being introduced as a demonstration event in 1992.

Brazil has been a dominant force in the sport since its arrival, with the United States also performing extremely well. Both countries have a good track record in court volleyball too.

Which Team GB athletes will compete in Olympic volleyball?

We may be sending our largest ever squad to an overseas Olympics this summer but that doesn’t mean we have qualified in every sport.

Team GB failed to qualify for either the court or beach volleyball tournament, so is unable to send a team to compete.

Volleyball is one of just a few sports where we won’t be represented, with others including softball, basketball, water polo and wrestling.

You thought it was hard being an England football fan, imagine what it’s like supporting the national volleyball team!

Read more – check out our comprehensive guides to the Olympic sports: Athletics | Basketball | Diving | Football | Judo | Rugby | Surfing | Triathlon

Radio Times Olympics Special issue is on sale now.

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