images of Volleyball

Olympic Sports


Volleyball offers fast, furious and exhilarating action making it one of the most popular sports on the Olympic programme.

Tokyo 2020 competition animation "One Minute, One Sport"

We will show you the rules and highlights of volleyball in one minute. Whether you are familiar with volleyball or want to know more about it, "One Minute, One Sport" explains the sport and how it works. Watch the video below.


Volleyball is played by two teams of six on an 18m x 9m indoor court divided by a net (2.43m high for men, 2.24m for women). The object of the game is to send the ball over the net in order to ground it on the opponent's court, and to prevent the same effort by the opponent.

Each team is only allowed to touch the ball three times before it crosses over the net towards the other team. There are three basic moves: the pass, the set and the attack. When the ball is on your side, you need to pass it towards the setter who will then set the ball to the attacker. The last person to make contact with the ball will then attack it towards the other team. The teams continue to rally the ball back and forth until one or the other allows the ball to land on the court or when a team makes an error like hitting the ball out of bounds or towards the antenna located at both ends of the net.

Players require amazing power and reactions: in men's matches, the ball can reach speeds in excess of 130km/h.

This is in sharp contrast to when the sport was first introduced as ‘mintonette’ by William G Morgan for older members of his YMCA gym in Massachusetts, USA in 1895.

Volleyball for both men and women became an official Olympic sport at the Tokyo 1964 Olympic Games.

Beach volleyball is similar to the indoor game but with three main differences. The court is slightly smaller, measuring 16m x 8m; it is covered in sand and usually situated outdoors, and the game is played by teams of two instead of teams of six.

The discipline came of age on the sun-soaked beaches of Santa Monica, California, during the 1920s and the event now regarded as the first Beach Volleyball World Championships was held in the state in 1976. Beach volleyball made its Olympic debut for men and women at Atlanta 1996. Twenty-four men's teams and 18 women's teams competed for the Olympic medals on Atlanta Beach in a 10,000-seat stadium. Beach volleyball quickly became one of the most popular spectator sports at the Games.
International Federation:Fédération Internationale de Volleyball (FIVB)(Open in a new window)

Event Programme


  • 12-team tournament (Men/Women)

Beach Volleyball

  • 24-team tournament (Men/Women)


Blocks, spikes and astonishing athleticism

Volleyball players

Volleyball matches are played to the best of five sets. The first four are played to 25 points, with the final set played to 15 points. A team must win a set by two points. Each set continues until one of the teams gains a two-point advantage.

The six-person teams employ three players at the net and three at the back of the court. The player in the specialist ‘libero’ position performs an exclusively defensive role and can replace any of the back three players. This player is easily spotted as they must wear a different colored uniform.

Powerful jump serves send the ball speeding across the net, while players who are more than 2m tall can reach heights of up to 3.5m when smashing the ball with all their strength into the opposing team's court. Also expect to see players diving full-length to retrieve a ball moments before it hits the floor.

While it's useful for players to have height and long reach for spikes and blocks, physique alone does not determine success. Pay attention to the setter who orchestrates gameplay and communicates tactics to teammates. Getting the ball to the setter is key for teams to set up and execute attacks.

In beach volleyball, matches are the best of three sets, with 21 points needed to win a set (15 in the third and deciding set). With just two players per team and the added variables of sand, sun and wind, beach volleyball is gruelling to play but spectacular to watch. Look out for players signalling to each other with their fingers behind their backs so that the other team can't see their strategy.


Powerhouse nations and rising stars

Volleyball players

Today, the top-ranking men's volleyball teams are Brazil, the USA, Poland, Italy and the Russian Federation, while China, the USA, Serbia, Brazil and the Russian Federation lead the way in the women's game.

The Russian Federation has earned the most Olympic gold medals - four each for both men and women. In an effort to counter the height and power of Russian athletes, other countries developed quick attacks and feints, adding to the complexity and excitement of the gameplay. In recent years, Brazil and the USA have upped their game to compete with the European countries that have traditionally been the powerhouses of the sport.

Beach volleyball is relatively new on the Olympic stage but in a short amount of time, it has increased its visibility and created its share of stars. A good example is Kerri Walsh Jennings, an American professional beach volleyball player who is a three-time Olympic gold medalist, and a one-time Olympic bronze medalist. The USA and Brazil are the leading nations, the former having won three gold medals in both men's and women's events since Atlanta 1996. However, it was Brazil's men who triumphed on the home sand of Copacabana at Rio 2016. In recent competitions, Norway, Latvia, Poland, Germany and Canada are closing the gap.



The balls used in beach volleyball move through the air more slowly. How?


A: Although the balls used in beach volleyball are almost the same size as those used in Volleyball, they're inflated to a 30 per cent lower air pressure. This means they are softer and move more slowly.

As of 18 Nov. 2019

Competition Venues

  • Ariake Arena
  • Shiokaze Park

Olympic Sports

Paralympic Sports