Lausanne, Switzerland, January 1, 2015 - It is with an enormous sense of pride that we came to the end of 2014 with the FIVB in better shape than ever.
When first elected FIVB President in 2012 I outlined three points which were central to the improvement of the organization:
• Good governance
A key part of good governance is transparency and the ability to have an open dialogue. This new transparent approach has seen us develop stronger relationships with the international community and in visiting numerous countries, heads of state, politicians, top sporting officials and leading international TV broadcasters we have enhanced the global profile of volleyball.
This initiative will also help us reach another aim: including volleyball as part of school curriculums. It is for this reason that we also recently launched the African Dream programme, a programme aimed at teaching volleyball in schools.
When talking about the growth of our sport it is impossible to ignore the success of the Beach Volleyball Continental Cup. Since the London 2012 Olympic Games we have increased the number of nations competing to qualify for Rio 2016 by 51 to nearly 200 national federations.
Additional opportunities have also been created with the new Under 23 World Championships and by increasing the number of teams in the other age-group World Championships. At our highest competition level we will have 32 countries taking part in the 2015 World League and 28 in the 2015 World Grand Prix, a testament to the improving level of volleyball worldwide.
New commercial partnerships are also providing us with new possibilities. Our current partners Mikasa, Honda, Gerflor and Jinling continue to support the maintenance of volleyball. They have now been joined by two new partners - Rosetta Stone and DB Schenker who had much value to our commercial interests.
Another ground breaking 10 year partnership with Red Bull, arguably the world’s most innovative marketing company, will also help take beach volleyball to a whole new level.
Innovation has also been at the heart of our growth strategy. We are beginning to engage new audiences and talk to the youth through digital platforms and social media.
We must strive to be the most innovative and technologically advanced sport on the planet and for that we have to commit ourselves to make a change in the way we communicate.
The introduction of the Volleyball Tracking System at the Women’s World Championship Italy 2014 is a good example of this. It presented data in a way we have never seen before, things like the speed of the ball, rally duration and the height of the spike helped enhance the public’s respect for the great athletic performance on show.
However, the most conspicuous example of this was the exhibition of the L.E.D. net during the same tournament. This will revolutionise the game in terms of sports entertainment and will again serve to modernise the presentation of our sport.
Of course, the presentation of volleyball is vital if we wish to expand our partnership with TV. For this reason we revised our rules and match format to make our sport more TV friendly. This included introducing a new challenge system technology to help make the sport fairer and more dramatic.
This drama was no more evident than at the World Championships in Poland and Italy.
The Men’s World Championship in Poland broke all volleyball records. 70,000 spectators just for the Opening Ceremony in a single stadium and more than 600,000 fans throughout the Championships! Poland is truly Volleyland! We brought volleyball into a whole new era of sports entertainment and Poland will be the benchmark for all volleyball events in the future.
The Women’s World Championship in Italy was equally a great success with more than 350,000 spectators. We also saw how our development program has started to deliver real dividends as the Dominican Republic, for the first time in history, reached the final round and delivered outstanding performances
It was a Championship of firsts. It was the first time USA won the World title and the first time Italy hosted the tournament.
But this success has created a big problem for the future (although a good one also) as future promoters will have to organise tournaments at least to this level.
We are now entering a true golden age of volleyball. In Rio, our sport will be the poster child of the Olympic Games. The story of the volleyball tournament will unfold in the Maracanazinho while beach volleyball will thrill crowds on the iconic Copacabana Beach, the only sport to be staged on the world-famous sands.
Four years later we will return to Tokyo where volleyball began its great Olympic adventure 50 years ago.
But before that we have a Beach Volleyball World Championships next year in the Netherlands, World League Finals in Rio, World Grand Prix Finals in Omaha, Beach Volleyball World Tour Finals in USA and the World Cup in Japan.
With expanded TV coverage, expanded social media coverage, expanded sponsorship, and expanded marketing, we will continue to work together to grow our sport around the world, attracting new fans and attracting new athletes.
This is truly a golden moment for volleyball. We can only achieve this together. Thank you for your trust, thank you for your confidence. It is truly an honour to serve you and serve our great sport.
Best wishes for 2015.
Dr. Ary S. Graça F°