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Based in Lausanne, Switzerland, the Fédération Internationale de Volleyball (FIVB) is the international governing body for all forms of men's and women's volleyball, including indoor, beach, and grass volleyball. It presides over five continental confederations: Asia, Africa, Europe, South America, and North and Central America. Within these confederations there are 221 national federations. FIVB's supreme authority is the World Congress, which convenes every two years and elects FIVB's president and Board of Administration members. The president is responsible for day-to-day decisions and is accountable to the World Congress and Board of Administration. FIVB standardizes the international rules of volleyball, markets the sport, and oversees major international volleyball tournaments, including the Olympic Games, the World Championship, the World Cup, and the Club World Championship. FIVB is also responsible for international youth tournaments.
Volleyball is a relatively new sport, its origins tied to another sport of somewhat recent vintage, basketball. Massachusetts is the birthplace of both basketball and volleyball. The former was invented in 1891 at the Springfield YMCA by James Naismith, who was tasked with the assignment of creating an indoor game to keep the center's rowdy youth occupied during the winter months. The result was “basket ball.” One of Naismith's students, William Morgan, brought the game to the YMCA in Holyoke, Massachusetts, where he became director. The fast-paced game, however, proved ill-suited for older, often corpulent, YMCA members. To accommodate them, Morgan followed the lead of his mentor, and 1895 he patched together elements from various sources, including basketball, to create a new game that he called “mintonette.” It was played with an inflated basketball bladder that teams of nine players batted back and forth over a six-and-half-foot-high rope, which was soon replaced by a more practical net. As in basketball, players were allowed to catch and dribble the ball to set up a shot. Morgan also borrowed from baseball, dividing a match into nine innings.
Along the way, individual countries made their own contributions to the game, but players in the Philippines proved particularly influential. Filipinos added the three-hit limit rule to prevent a team from hitting the ball among itself multiple times before finally sending it over the net to its frustrated and somewhat bored opponents. In addition, Filipino players were the first to spike the ball, a move that was stunning at first but soon became a major tactic of the game.
With volleyball's growing popularity came the need for an international governing body, such as soccer's Fédération Internationale de Football Association. The seeds for FIVB were planted after World War II. Representatives of the Czech, French, and Polish volleyball federations began meeting informally at a coffee house in Prague. A more formal meeting between representatives of the three groups soon followed. They also brought written declarations of support from the volleyball federations in Belgium, Italy, Romania, and Yugoslavia. A volleyball commission was subsequently formed to establish the foundations for an international governing body that would codify volleyball's rules, lay the groundwork for regional and world championship competitions, add volleyball to the Olympic Games, and publicize the sport around the world.
FOUNDING OF FIVB
The president of the French Volleyball Federation, Paul Libaud, was tasked with organizing a Constitutive Congress to formally establish the Fédération Internationale de Volleyball. The Congress met at the Grand Hotel of Paris in April 1947, attended by representatives from federations of 14 nations: Belgium, Brazil, Czechoslovakia, Egypt, France, Netherlands, Hungary, Italy, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Uruguay, the United States, and Yugoslavia. Some of the participants also acted on behalf of other national federations. Thus, FIVB was born, with Libaud elected as the organization's first president and Paris chosen as its home.
One of the first accomplishments of FIVB was the organization of a world championship. The first FIVB Volleyball Men's World Championship tournament was conducted in 1949, the same year that FIVB's second World Congress was held in Prague. The first FIVB Women's World Championship followed in 1952. Volleyball continued to grow in popularity around the world. The number of member federations increased to 45 in 1955 and to 89 in 1964, the same year that volleyball became part of the Olympic Games. Ten men's and six women's teams competed for medals in the Tokyo games in 1964. The first FIVB Volleyball World Cup competition was held the following year.
The exposure provided by the Olympics helped elevate volleyball to new heights of popularity. It was an ideal counterpart to soccer, the only major sport embraced by most of the world. Volleyball was inexpensive and could be played indoors and out during soccer's off-season. In 1968 the number of federations involved in FIVB reached 101 and spanned five continents. Oddly, the United States, the birthplace of volleyball, was slow to embrace competitive volleyball. For most Americans, it was still considered a leisurely backyard activity, with the notable exception of California, where leagues were formed and basketball stars Wilt Chamberlain and Keith Erickson participated. It was not until 1968, when the National Collegiate Athletic Association sanctioned varsity college programs, that competitive, so-called power volleyball grew in popularity in the United States.
Libaud was in his 80s when he stepped down as FIVB's president in 1984, after 37 years in charge. At the World Congress held that year in Los Angeles, FIVB elected Ruben Acosta of Mexico as its new president. In addition to the change in leadership, FIVB moved its headquarters in 1984 to the more strategically located Lausanne, Switzerland. FIVB was now close to the home of the International Olympic Committee and better situated for expanding international volleyball competitions. In 1993 the number of affiliated member associations reached 210, making FIVB the world's largest sports organization.
While FIVB focused on six-person volleyball, a two-person beach variation had been growing in popularity outside its purview. The origins of beach volleyball dated to the late 1920s, when six-person games were played on California beaches. One afternoon four men unable to find enough players to round out a game decided to scrimmage two on two, embracing the athletic challenge of covering the full court. The concept caught on, and by the early 1940s sand doubles had become a popular game on the West Coast.
The first professional beach volleyball tournament was held in California in 1976. Its success led to the first Pro Beach Volleyball Tour three years later. In 1983 a players' union, the Association of Volleyball Professionals (AVN), was formed and took control of the tour, which mostly consisted of stops in North America. In 1990 NBC began broadcasting the AVN tournament. Meanwhile, FIVB launched a rival tour that made stops around the world.
After it was announced that beach volleyball would be added to the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, a power struggle ensued between FIVB, AVN, and USA Volleyball over the selection of the U.S. Olympic team. FIVB organized a preliminary tournament in Brazil sponsored by Budweiser beer. Because the Miller Brewing Company was a longtime AVN sponsor, AVN players, which included the top stars of the sport, were unable to participate. Ultimately, the player boycott ended and the AVN stars participated in the Olympics. Beach volleyball was a hit and became a staple at the Summer Olympic Games. Women players were not pleased, however, that while men donned their countries' award uniforms at the medal ceremonies, FIVB required that women wear their bikinis.
FIVB revamped the international rules of volleyball in 1998 and applied them at international competitions the following year. The most significant change was the introduction of rally scoring. Previously, only the serving team could score a point. As a result, games between evenly matched sides could become exceedingly lengthy affairs. Under the new rules, the winner of a rally won a point, regardless of which side served. Another change was the addition of a “libero” player, a back-row defensive specialist who wears a different color shirt and is not permitted to serve, spike, or block. Use of the libero does not count against a team's substitution limit.
Volleyball continued to grow in popularity in the new century, but FIVB had to deal with controversy. In 2004 the head of the Argentine federation accused Acosta of pocketing millions of dollars allocated to FIVB by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and falsifying records. Acosta denied the charges, but with the Olympics in Athens approaching, he resigned from the IOC. He remained president of FIVB, however.
In 2004 FIVB purchased a building in Lausanne. After three years of renovations, it became the new FIVB headquarters in May 2008. The total cost of the project was $30 million. The following month FIVB held its biennial World Congress in Dubai, where the 74-year-old Acosta announced his retirement. During his tenure as president, volleyball had become more television-friendly and boasted more national federation affiliations than any other Olympic sport.
First executive vice president Wei Jizhong of China succeeded Acosta as FIVB president. Under Wei, FIVB increased its financial support to the federations in 2010. The following year the organization implemented a rebranding effort and marketing campaign to bring greater attention to volleyball's major international tournaments. Also in 2011 FIVB forged a partnership with the United Nations (UN) to promote shared values and support the attainment of the UN Millennium Development Goals, including the eradication of extreme hunger and poverty.
In 2016 volleyball, in particular beach volleyball, enjoyed continued success at the Summer Olympics in Brazil. At the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, snow volleyball was introduced as a demonstration sport. Whether volleyball would become the first sport to be played at both the Summer and Winter Olympic Games remained to be seen. Regardless, with support from its governing body, volleyball was likely to grow in popularity in the years ahead.
Beach Volleyball; Volleyball.
Fédération Internationale de Football Association; International Baseball Federation; International Basketball Federation.
Amdur, Neil. “New Techniques Lifting Volleyball to Game of Power.” New York Times, August 15, 1971.
“Fighting for More Coverage.” Maclean's, April 13, 1998, 12.
“FIVB Opens New Headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland.” Xinhua News Agency, May 9, 2008.
“FIVB President Declares Retirement.” Xinhua News Agency, June 18, 2008.
Hillstrom, Kevin, Laurie Collier Hillstrom, and Roger Matuz. The Handy Sports Answer Book. Detroit: Visible Ink Press, 1998.
Knisley, Michael. “Volleyball Doing a Good Job of Kicking Sand in Its Face.” Sporting News, May 22, 1995, 55.
“New Volleyball Rules to Be Introduced at World Cup.” Xinhua News Agency, November 1, 1999.