Host City: Athina, Greece
Venue(s): Peace and Friendship Stadium, Faliro Coastal Zone Olympic Complex, Faliro
Date Started: August 15, 2004
Date Finished: August 29, 2004
Format: Round-robin pools advanced teams to classification matches.
In the now standard format, 12 teams competed, separated into two pools of six, followed by elimination and medal/placement matches. The qualifying teams were selected as follows: host nation (Greece), World Cup (Brazil, Italy, Serbia & Montenegro), Continental qualifiers (Russia, United States, Argentina, Tunisia), and qualification tournaments (Netherlands, France, Australia, Poland).
Brazil was heavily favored, having won every major international tournament since 2002, including the 2002 World Championships. They led Group B, losing only to the United States, and even that occurred after they had clinched the group victory. In a re-match in the semi-finals, Brazil easily handled the Americans, winning in three sets, 25-16, 25-17, 25-23. Italy had been the best team in the world in the late 90s, but had never managed an Olympic gold, despite winning three straight world titles. They were European Champions in 2003 and made it to the final against Brazil in Athina. It was considered a dream final â the World Champion against the European Champion. The teams split the first two sets, but Brazil won relatively easily after that, taking the gold medal in four sets. One of the their players, [Mauricio Lima], had also played on their 1992 Olympics gold medal winning team. Italy was also represented by a five-time volleyball Olympian, [Andrea Giani], who also played his last match in Athina. The Russians won the bronze medal after narrowly qualifying in their group (losing to both Brazil and the Netherlands), despite being silver medalists at the 2002 World Championships.