Volleyball at the Rio 2016 Olympics: All you need to know

Volleyball
Olympic Games on the BBC
Venue: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil Dates: 5-21 August Time in Rio: BST -4
Coverage: Watch on BBC One, BBC Four, Red Button and up to 24 HD video streams on mobile, desktop and connected TVs, plus follow on Radio 5 live and via live text commentary.

How does it work?

"Football is a religion, volleyball is our number one sport," said Ary Graca, the Brazilian-born head of the International Volleyball Federation.

Volleyball may never usurp football in terms of participation or popularity in Brazil, but it runs it very close.

In 2006, research claimed there were 15.3 million volleyball players in the country and that number is believed to have risen even higher since.

So how does a sport which attracts all these people work?

Teams of six players compete on an indoor court of 18m x 9m. Each team can touch the ball up to three times before returning it over the net.

The 12 teams in Rio are split into two pools of six, with the top four in each pool advancing to the quarter-finals.

Matches are best-of-five sets, with 25 points needed to win a set (15 points in the fifth set). In the pool stage, bonus points are given for big wins or narrow defeats.

Anything new for Rio 2016?

There has been a tweak to the ranking criteria in the pool stage, with the number of wins now taking precedence over a ranking point system based on margins of victory and defeat.

Who are the British prospects?

Great Britain has a less than glorious Olympic record in volleyball - and that will continue. No British teams have qualified for Rio.

Who are the favourites?

The men's event will be fiercely contested. Hosts Brazil are the top-ranked side and won last year's Continental Championships, while France were the 2015 World League winners. Brazil's women are targeting a third straight gold - they won the World Grand Prix final in July by beating holders USA, the world number one side.

I didn't know that...

In 2012, a spike by Bulgaria's Matey Kaziyski registered at 82mph.

Previous British medallists

None

Highest British finish

Joint ninth (women, 1996)

Beach volleyball

How does it work?

There can be few sports in Olympic history that have been played in such dramatically different venues from one Games to the next.

At London 2012, beach volleyball had the historic splendour of Horse Guards Parade as a backdrop; in Rio, matches will take place on the iconic Copacabana beach in the shadow of Sugar Loaf Mountain.

Although its origins originate in California, it's a sport that has become just as synonymous with Brazil, and Rio in particular.

From dawn until dusk, 365 days a year, matches are played as far as the eye can see on the beautiful sandy beaches of Ipanema and right along the 4km stretch of Copacabana.

Best-of-three-set matches are played amid the music and revelry, with 21 points (and a minimum two-point margin) needed in the first two sets and 15 in the third if required.

The men's and women's events begin with 24 pairs split into six pools of four. The top two in each pool, plus the two best third-ranked teams and two lucky losers, advance to a knockout phase from the last 16 onwards.

Who are the favourites?

Despite making the sport their own Brazil has strangely only won two gold medals in five Olympics.

However, the host nation has the top seeds in both tournaments, with Alison Cerutti and Bruno Schmidt, the reigning men's world champions, and female counterparts Talita Antunes and Larissa Franca favourites for gold.

Legendary three-time gold medallist Kerri Walsh-Jennings of the United States has a new partner in London 2012 silver medallist April Ross.

Who are the British prospects?

Like the indoor version, Britain has no previous pedigree in this Olympic sport. And, again, that will not change in Rio. No Britons have qualified.

I didn't know that...

Despite only winning two golds, Brazil are still the most successful nation in terms of overall medals won.

USA lead the way with six golds - with three of them belonging to Jennings and Misty May-Treanor.

Previous British medallists

None

Highest British finish

Joint ninth (women, 1996)

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