As we look back on the Rio 2016 Olympic Games in the months and years ahead, we will reflect on these fantastic Games knowing this was the time when volleyball confirmed its position as the ultimate family sport entertainment.
Nearly thirty years have passed since the FIVB organised its first beach volleyball event in Rio de Janeiro. Twenty years have passed since beach volleyball joined the Olympic Programme. All this time, we dreamed that one day we might see Olympic competitions in Rio. Now, the dream has come true.
The last days of competition at Copacabana and at the Maracanãzinho were among the most extraordinary moments of my life. Alongside the IOC members, I had the pleasure of rewarding athletes - including my own countrymen and women - as they stood on top of the Olympic podium in my country. But, every single athlete who took to the sands of the iconic Copacabana or to the court at the Maracanãzinho contributed to the event’s unprecedented success.
Alison and Bruno hit new heights on way to Olympic glory
Ludwig and Walkenhorst win Olympic gold and German hearts
For 13 days, Copacabana was the beating heart of Rio 2016. The FIVB created a party at the beach and also at Maracanãzinho, inviting and uniting fans of all ages and nationalities to enjoy the remarkable spectacle that is our sport. But the party had a serious purpose. Spectacle, music and dancing are part of our Brazilian culture for sure. But we mix these things with sport not just to entertain. We do it to make sure we do not have just spectators, we have participants. We want fans who are engaged with our sport, who learn something about volleyball, who go home knowing that they want more volleyball in their lives and who have new heroes that are volleyball players.
Brazil make triumphant return to the top of the podium
China crowned champions in Rio de Janeiro
I knew we succeeded in this even before the matches finished because the beach volleyball and volleyball competitions were not the only things we had in Rio de Janeiro. We had six volleyball courts on Copacabana Beach in front of our very successful Volleyball House as well as courts in Deodoro Olympic Park and in the Athletes’ Village Plaza Court. Our CopaCourts were a huge success, where great athletes from our sport came and shared their knowledge and passion with people of all ages. And away from the beach we are proud of the Viva Vôlei Volleyball Your Way development training centres that the FIVB opened and will be partly funding up until Tokyo 2020 as part of our Rio social sport legacy programme.
16 days of Volleyball House activity ends in true Rio style
Copa Courts sets the scene for future Special Olympics activities
Whilst volleyball and beach volleyball were our priority at these Olympic Games and our attention will soon focus on key events like the next FIVB Beach Volleyball World Championships to be held in Vienna, Austria in 2017 and the FIVB Volleyball World Championships to be held in 2018 in Japan for women, and Italy and Bulgaria for men, Rio 2016 provided another excellent opportunity for our disciplines and our athletes to play an important role in the promotion of the values of Olympism, alongside many other top sports and their star performers. When all of our sports come together, it truly creates something magical, a real celebration of humanity.
The Olympic Spirit was alive and well and strong in Rio. Like every federation, like every NOC and our friends at the IOC, we worked together to find solutions for challenges we might not have expected. In each case we succeeded. I must thank our friends at the Rio 2016 Organising Committee most sincerely for all that they have done. They worked tirelessly and passionately for the good of all sport and for the good of the Olympic Games. We are all better because of their efforts.
Every Olympic Games is special in its own way. Rio 2016 was particularly special for us at FIVB. Our sport returned to its spiritual home and we leave with the honour of knowing that we have inspired generations of fans in all corners of the world. Volleyball and beach volleyball have become stronger and we already look forward to taking it to new heights.
Dr. Ary S. Graça F°