Host City: Beijing, China
Date Started: August 9, 2008
Date Finished: August 24, 2008
Participants: 283 (143 men and 140 women) from 15 countries
Youngest Participant: Roslandy Acosta (16 years, 167 days)
Oldest Participant: Ivan Tasev (41 years, 143 days)
Most Medals (Athlete): 72 athletes with 1 medal
Most Medals (Country): United States and Brazil (2 medals)
The 2008 Olympic volleyball matches were played at the Beijing Ligong Daxue Tiyuguan, or Beijing Institute of Technology Gymnasium, in Beijing; and the Shoudu Tiyguan, or Capital Indoor Stadium, in Beijing. The Capital Indoor Stadium, which was built in 1968, was famous as the venue of the China-USA table tennis matches in 1971, known as ping-pong diplomacy. In 2004 it also hosted one of the first NBA games in China.
The men’s and women’s tournaments both had 12 teams separated into two six-team groups which played a round-robin tournament to advance four teams from each group to the quarter-finals.
The 12 men’s teams qualified as follows – China as the host nation; the top three teams from the 2007 World Cup (Brazil, Russia, Bulgaria); winners of the 2008 continental Olympic Qualifying Tournaments (Serbia, United States, Venezuela, Japan, Egypt); and three teams from the 2008 Olympic Qualifying Tournament (Germany, Poland, Italy).
The 12 women’s teams qualified as follows – China as the host nation; the top three teams from the 2007 World Cup (Italy, Brazil, United States); winners of the continental Olympic Qualifying Tournaments (Russia, Cuba, Venezuela, Algeria), the top three teams from the 2008 Olympic Qualifying Tournament (Serbia, Poland, Japan); and Kazakhstan qualified as next best non-qualified finisher in the Asian Olympic Qualifier.
The United States’ men had been the best team in the world in the 1980s but had slipped since. They were not favored in Beijing and on the first day of volleyball competition, the team suffered a tragedy. US men’s coach Hugh McCutcheon’s in-laws, Todd and Barbara Bachman, parents of 2004 Olympian [Wiz Bachman-McCutcheon], were visiting the Beijing Drum Tower, when they were attacked by a knife-wielding assailant, who then killed himself by jumping off the tower. Todd Bachman died and Barbara only survived after eight hours of surgery. McCutcheon sat out the American team’s first three games. After this shocking event the US team pulled together and won the gold medal, winning all eight of their games.
Brazil’s women had been top-ranked prior to the 2004 Olympics but placed only fourth. In Beijing they left no doubt, winning all eight matches and 24 of 25 sets to take the gold medal.