Host City: London, Great Britain
Venue(s): Earls Court Exhibition Centre, Kensington and Chelsea, London
Date Started: July 28, 2012
Date Finished: August 11, 2012
Format: Round-robin pools advanced teams to classification matches.
Brazil was the defending champion, having defeated the United States in the Beijing final. The two teams came into London seeded 1-2, with the United States having a slight edge. They were joined by 10 other teams, who had qualified in various ways. The USA was in from the 2011 World Cup standings, joined by second-ranked Italy, and third-ranked China, the 2008 bronze medalists. Five nations qualified via continental tournaments (Algeria, Dominican Republic, Japan, Turkey, and the defending champions Brazil). In May 2012 a World Qualifier added Russia, Korea (South), and Serbia. Host nation Great Britain was also given a spot in the London tournament. Britain had never competed in volleyball at the Olympics previously, for either men or women, but their women did manage one victory in pool play, defeating Algeria.
In Pool A, Russia won all five matches to advance over Italy, Japan, and the Dominican Republic. The United States dominated Pool B, winning all five matches, while losing only two sets. Brazil struggled, placing fourth in the pool to narrowly advance to the knock-out stage. Brazil faced Russia in the quarter-finals, and survived in five sets, winning 21-19 in the fifth. The United States continued their dominance, defeating the Dominican Republic in the quarters, and Korea in the semis, both by 3-0 scores.
After Brazil defeated Japan easily in the semis, 3-0, the final was a repeat of the Beijing final. This had also happened in 1972-76, with Japan and the Soviet Union meeting in the final match. Japan and the Soviets had also been the top two in 1964-68, but that was a purely round-robin format.
The United States, based on their easy path in London, seemed poised to win their first-ever women’s volleyball gold, after silvers in 1984 and 2008, and a bronze in 1992. But they were crushed in the first set of the final, 25-11, and although they won the second set, Brazil romped to a 3-1 victory to defend their gold medal – 25-11, 17-25, 25-20, 25-17. Their second consecutive gold was added to bronze medals won by Brazilian women in 1996 and 2000.
Japan had once been the dominant women’s nation in volleyball, winning the inaugural Olympic gold in 1964, and adding silvers in 1968-72, and another gold in 1976. But they had not won an Olympic medal since a bronze in 1984. In London, they were seeded #3 by the FIVB and the seedings held as they defeated Korea for the bronze medal in straight sets, to earn their sixth Olympic medal, equalling the former Soviet Union for the most ever in women’s Olympic volleyball, although in 1992 the Unified Team also won silver in women’s volleyball.