'Most balanced' Olympic tournament kicks off as more teams than ever vie for gold


Italy will be hoping for more scenes like this from London 2012 (where they celebrate their bronze medal) when they embark on their Rio 2016 Olympic campaign Sunday.

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, August 6, 2016 - Russia kick of their Rio 2016 campaign Sunday, as they attempt to defend the title they won four years ago after beating Brazil in five sets in that stunning but highly entertaining final of London 2012, as the men's Olympic Volleyball Tournament begins at the Maracanazinho.

All coaches agreed this week that it will be a historical event, as they considered it to be the most balanced Olympic tournament of all time, with more teams than ever ready to claim gold.

Russia open play at 20:30 local time against a Cuban team largely composed of youngsters. But attention will be focusing on Russia's captain Sergey Tetyukhin, the country's flagbearer at Friday's Rio 2016 Opening Ceremony in the Maracana Stadium.

At 40 years old, Tetyukhin will match today the record of seven Olympic appearances held by his fellow-Russian Yevgeniya Artamonova.

Sergey Tetyukhin celebrating Russia's gold in London 2012

But the day's action opens earlier in the morning with a huge European derby, when London 2012 bronze medallists Italy take on the continental champions France at 09:30.

For hosts Brazil, who will be looking for inspiration from an enthusiastic home crowd, the road to repating their success of Athens 2004 (after twice ending up with just silver in Beijing 2008 and London 2012) begins at 11:35 against Mexico -who return to the Olympics for the first time since 1968, when they competed as hosts in Mexico City.

Re-watch the full men's final of the London 2012 Olympics

Reigning world champions Poland open the afternoon session at 15:00 with a matchup against African champions Egypt. Poland's French coach Stephane Antiga stressed that being in Rio is not enough -and even if secretely, the Poles must surely have in the back of their minds the gold medal of Montreal 1976.

A North American classic will see the winners of the 2015 FIVB World Cup USA attempt to start off on the right foot in a bid to return to the glory days of the 1980s and to repeat the triumph of Beijing 2008. USA take on at 17:05 their northern neighbours Canada, who return to the Olympics for the forst time in a quarter of a century, after last appearing at Barcelona 1992.

Olympic debutantes Iran take on Argentina at 22:25 to close the opening day of the men's tournament, with both seeking to squeeze through to the quarterfinals and then take it from there.

Quick links - Volleyball:
Rio 2016 Olympic Games - Volleyball
Rio 2016 Olympic Games - Volleyball schedule
Rio 2016 Olympic Games - Volleyball - Teams - Men
Rio 2016 Olympic Games - Volleyball - Teams - Women
Rio 2016 Olympic Games - Volleyball - Media Guide
Rio 2016 Olympic Games - Volleyball history


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