Lausanne, Switzerland, 30 May 2002 - The 2002 World Tour kicks off in the first week in June, promising to be a real blast now the sport has really come of age after two successful appearances as a full Olympic sport and the success of the 2001 World Championships in Klagenfurt, Austria.
This season the Tour sets to bring beach volleyball right into the heart of some of the world's great cities, as well as to famous beaches. In fact, competitors wont get to even see the sea for the first month of competition. The women go straight to the Spanish capital Madrid for their first event (June 4-9).
The Brazilian duo Adriana Behar-Shelda, who topped the women's standings after a glorious season last year - including the world championship title - will be out to establish early supremacy, but the Olympic medallists (Sydney 2000) Kerri Pottharst and Natalie Cook are expected to mount an early challenge at the season's opener. "Winning is the ultimate," Pottharst said at the beginning of the season. "To be the best you can be, and to have your partner do the same at any given moment equals winning!"
The men's Tour starts one week later, when they will play in Alexanderplatz in the heart of the German capital of Berlin. Again, the ones to beat will be from South America - Emanuel and Tande from Brazil and Baracetti-Conde, the Argentines who are the current World Champions. But times are changing, and with the sport now increasingly popular in Europe, they can expect strong challenges from established top ranking pairs like the Laciga brothers (Paul and Martin) from Switzerland, Americans Kevin Wong and Stein Metzger and the colorful Norwegian "Viking" Vegard Hoidalen and partner Jorre André Kjemperud.
The competition this year will be played on the now approved smaller court (8x x 16m) and the Rally Point scoring system - best of three sets, the first two to 21 points, with an eventual tiebreaker to 15 points. Each set must be won by a margin of two points.
High Tech Developments
Thanks to high tech research by sponsor Speedo, players this year will be playing in uniforms made from lighter and breathe-easy fabrics, a major step towards improving conditions in this hot summer sport.
Ball manufacturers Mikasa have also been busy and have come up with a new synthetic ball that retains the feel and even the look of former leather models.
Little Screen, Big Picture
In recognition of the sport's growing popularity, the FIVB has this year contracted Sports TV Media Distribution to produce highlight shows of 52 minutes each for both Grand Slam events with eight other 26-minutes packages covering the other 17 World Tour events.