Lausanne, Switzerland, September 7, 2015 - The International Volleyball Federation launched the FIVB Volleyball World Cup in 1965. The 13th edition of the men's competition begins on Tuesday, with 12 teams competing to win the title Russia claimed in 2011.
Eleven nations were involved in the first edition of the competition also known as the “Tournament of the Continents” - ten countries were from Europe, the dominant continent in volleyball at the time. The only team to travel from overseas were Japan. In the decisive match in September 1965, the Soviet Union team defeated hosts Poland to claim a narrow 3-2 victory.
The parallel with the most recent edition of the FIVB Volleyball Men's World Cup in 2011 is perhaps surprising. In that tournament, Russia, as the successor state of the Soviet Union, defeated the Polish team 17-15 in a dramatic tie-break, making it 3 sets to 2 overall. For the dominant team of Russia/the Soviet Union, it was the sixth victory in total in the twelve editions of the Men’s World Cup held to date.
“It was a great tournament of the best teams of the world,” enthused Russia coach Vladimir Alekno. And the perfect test of stamina ahead of the Olympic Games in London - Russia won the gold medal there too.
Cuba coach Orlando Samuels Blackwood also highlighted the significance of the event: “The tournament was excellent overall, I’d even say better than the Olympics. At a technical level, this World Cup was better than the most recent World Championship. This competition has got the strongest starting field in the current four year period because the best teams in the world are here.”
And this is one of the ingredients in the recipe for the competition's success. Another is that the first tickets for the Olympic Games have been allocated at this tournament since 1991. The FIVB decided to change the competition's format 24 years ago - from then on, it was held in the year preceding and not following the Olympic Games.
The World Cup became an Olympic Games qualification event prior to the 1992 Barcelona Games, guaranteeing the winners an Olympic berth. The first winner under the new formula was again the Soviet Union.
The competition has remained an Olympic qualification event since, with the number of Olympic qualification berths increasing to three in 1995 ahead of the Atlanta 1996 Games. In this year’s FIVB World Cups for men, two tickets are up for grabs for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
The early editions of the competition were dominated by teams from Eastern Europe. After the Soviet Union's debut victory in 1965, the second World Cup was held four years later in East Germany. And the host nation caused a sensation, winning the competition – despite a 1-3 defeat to the Japanese, who finished in second place. A defeat against Brazil was the undoing of the team from the Far East. No fewer than four of the eleven nations that participated in the second edition of the FIVB World Cup came from outside of Europe.
The FIVB Men’s World Cup made its final breakthrough when the decision was taken to hold the competition in Japan from that point on. The tournament was held there for the first time in 1977, and the mix of competitors from around the world was the most varied it had ever been. Only three of the twelve participating teams were from Europe.
Once again, hosts Japan narrowly missed out on the victory, finishing in second. As in 1981, it was the Soviet Union who claimed the title. But even this winning streak could not last forever. USA won for the first and only time in 1985, Cuba were victorious in 1989. After the Soviet Union's victory in 1991, three-time world champions Italy picked up the World Cup title in 1995, in the middle of their most successful era.
Since then, the FIVB World Cup has gone to the top volleyball nations of Russia and Brazil. Russia won in 1999, before Brazil got the upper hand in 2003 and 2007. This makes Brazil the only nation other than Russia/the Soviet Union to have won the competition more than once.
There have been a total of twelve medal winners in the history of the competition. In twelve editions, Russia/the Soviet Union have made it onto the podium ten times. Brazil and Cuba have finished in the top three a total of five times each.
“The World Cup plays an integral role in the Olympic qualification process and is a very important tournament for volleyball. One of volleyball’s most famous tournaments is staged in one of the countries where the sport is most popular,” said FIVB President Dr. Ary S. Graça F°.
The World Cup is historically the second-most prestigious FIVB tournament after the World Championships.