Technological Advances Transform Field of Play

The Rio 2016 Olympic Games have been a celebration of volleyball and beach volleyball, with the spectacular Maracanãzinho GetImage1and Copacabana Beach venues taking player and spectator experiences to new levels. And technology is playing its role too.

Arguably the most visible change to how volleyball and beach volleyball are played since the Olympic Games in London in 2012, the Video Challenge System now helps officials and players have a clearer picture when it comes to block touches, net faults, line calls and foot faults, whilst also adding a sense of excitement to proceedings. By providing an improved experience on and off the court, it is revolutionising the sport.

The Challenge System was first used at an FIVB event during the FIVB Volleyball Club World Championships in 2012. It has been used at flagship FIVB events since including the World League and World Grand Prix, and the FIVB World Cup. It was used at a beach volleyball competition for the first time at the 2015 FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour Rio de Janeiro Open, which also served as a test event for the beach volleyball tournament at the 2016 Olympics. 12 high-resolution Hawk-Eye cameras were also in place at the Swatch FIVB World Tour Finals in Fort Lauderdale in 2015, marking the system’s first appearance at a Major Series event later in the same year.

With the new system in place, volleyball and beach volleyball teams now have the right to call video verification for a referee’s decision twice per set. Coaches (in volleyball) and players can challenge ball in/out, block touch, net fault, antenna touch and service foot faults in both volleyball and beach volleyball. Players and spectators share in the excitement and focus on the analysis on a giant screen as the challenge is either accepted or refused.

Giovanni Guidetti of the Netherlands during the challenge
Giovanni Guidetti of the Netherlands during the challenge

FIVB President Dr. Ary S Graça F° said: “The FIVB is committed to improve the resources available to referees to assist the decision making process and ensure the game is absolutely fair to the athletes’ actions. The Volleyball Challenge system is a great example of such an improvement that allows teams to request a review of a decision.”

The volleyball and beach volleyball events in Rio have certainly helped to establish the system further.

The Hawk-Eye Video Challenge System also produces a host of statistics about the matches in Rio

“The Challenge system has been a huge success at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, it has transformed the presentation of the sport for the better and given athletes more control during the matches,” FIVB Athletes’ Commission Secretary Vladimir Grbic said. “The Hawk Eye technology has been previously used at other FIVB events and we could see in Rio that the athletes are already accustomed to it and using their two challenges wisely.
“As the Secretary of the FIVB Athletes’ Commission it is my mission to ensure the athlete experience is at the heart of every FIVB event. It is extremely important to create a platform for their voices to be heard and encourage them to take an active role in the decision making process and I think that the implementation of the Challenge System at the Olympic Games is an important milestone for this.”

The Video Challenge System is not the only way in which technology is helping referees to make better decisions at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, however. Since the Games in London in 2012, referees have benefited from the introduction of Electronic Scoresheets and LED Scoreboard Tablets which help to visualize team rosters and track scores, rotations, substitutions and timeouts.

Headsets now also play an important role and help to improve how information is exchanged within refereeing teams. By allowing direct verbal communication, they provide an additional line of communication as a complement to hand signals.

GetImage3Beach volleyball referee Jose Maria Padron wears a wireless headset

The FIVB promotes technological innovation when it helps to further increase the understanding and audience of volleyball and beach volleyball worldwide.

And the sport has experienced significant growth in recent years with 31 countries attempting to qualify for the events at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games, 143 for the Games in London in 2012 and a record 195 for the Rio de Janeiro Olympics.

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