Olympic Preview: Volleyball

Updated February 21, 2017 | Factmonster Staff

First Olympic Appearance: 1964

by Gerry Brown and Mark Zurlo

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Did You Know?
Volleyball was invented by William Morgan in 1896 in Holyoke, Mass. and was originally called "mintonette". Morgan's friend James Naismith had recently come up with a new game involving a ball and two peach baskets, but Morgan thought this game, known as basketball, would be too strenuous for middle-aged folk so he invented his own game, one that would soon be known as volleyball.


New rules and even a brand new position made their debuts at the 2000 Sydney Games. Traditionally, teams could only score when they had served the ball. Since 2000, teams can score no matter who served, making all rallies do or die. In order to accommodate the quicker scoring pace, the first four sets are now played to 25 points while the final set remains at 15 points. Sets must be won by two points. Matches are best-of-five sets.

Additionally, and perhaps even more revolutionary, is the addition of a new position called the "libero". The libero wears a different colored shirt from their teammates and is able to substitute into the back row at anytime. The libero cannot serve, spike or rotate into the front row but these back row defensive specialists can generate a lot more digs and create longer rallies leading to more suspense. The games remain six-on-six competition.

In London, 12 men's and women's teams will compete for the gold at Earls Court, a site which could be considered a historic venue as it was used in the 1948 Games to showcase boxing, gymnastics, weightlifting, and wrestling. For the 2012 Games, a temporary volleyball court and spectator seating will greet visitors.

Beach volleyball will be contested at the very historic Horse Guards Parade, which dates back to 1745 and is named for the soldiers who have been protecting the monarchy since 1660.

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