Host City: Seoul, South Korea
Venue(s): Gymnasium, Hanyang University, Seoul; Jamsil Gymnasium, Seoul Sports Complex, Seoul; Saemaul Sports Hall, Seoul
Date Started: September 17, 1988
Date Finished: October 2, 1988
Format: Round-robin pools advanced teams to classification matches.
The teams qualified as follows: defending Olympic Champion (United States), World Cup Champion (USSR, replacing the United States), 1986 World Champion (Bulgaria, replacing the United States and Soviet Union), host nation (Korea), Africa Champion (Tunisia), Asia Champion (Japan), North America Champion (Cuba), European Champion (France, replacing the Soviet Union and Bulgaria), South America Champion (Brazil). Three qualifying tournaments were held, in Brazil (Argentina), Netherlands (Netherlands) and Italy (Sweden). Italy was added when Cuba boycotted the Games.
By 1988, the United States was the dominant team in the world, coached by Marv Dunphy. They had won the 1984 Olympics, the 1986 World Championships, and the 1987 Pan-American Games. They were led by [Karch Kiraly], considered the best volleyball player in the world, and [Steve Timmons], a 1.95 [6-5] spiker/blocker. Unlike 1984, they would be challenged by the Soviet Union, which had won the last nine European Championships. Before the Olympics they had played nine matches in World Cup play, with the US winning seven. In pool play, the US came thru undefeated while the Soviets lost the tough Brazilians in five sets. The US had been in trouble against Argentina in the pool, trailing by two sets, when [Jeff Stork] took control in the third set, smashing 11 points to win the set, and the US then went on to win in five sets. The US had to play Brazil in the semis, but crushed them in three sets, 15-3, 15-5, 15-11, proving their superiority. In the final, the US played the USSR, and the Soviets won the first set, 15-13. But after that the US pulled away and won in four sets. The USA was the first team to win back-to-back Olympic volleyball gold medals since the Soviet Union had won the first two gold medals in 1964-68. Argentina won the bronze medal, upsetting Brazil in five sets, and a 3 hour, 10 minute marathon match.