Australia and Japan have are discussing an expansion of their partnership headed toward the 2020 Olympic Games, which will be hosted in Tokyo, to volleyball. This builds upon previous relationships from other sports, including swimming, which have been in place as Australia looks to take advantage of the various geopolitical ties it has with Japan.
Unlike swimming, where countries earn Olympic sports by athletes meeting a time standard (up to 2 per event per country) rather than head-to-head international competition, in volleyball, Australia’s and Japan’s Olympic invites usually are inversely correlated. In 2020, however, Japan automatically qualifies as the host country, which means that the two won’t be in competition for Asia’s 1 automatic spot nor the 6 at-large qualifying spots (if qualifying follows the same pattern as it did in Rio).
The last time Tokyo hosted the Olympics was in 1964, where volleyball made its debut at the quadrennial event. Since then, Japan has won 3 gold, 2 silver, and 3 bronze across the indoor and beach arenas, while Australia has a bronze and a gold in women’s beach.
The countries say that among their goals for the proposed partnership is to “advance bilateral relations” and to “enhance the growth of the sport in Asia.”
“We discussed many matters with President Kimura and his team at the JVA Offices,” Volleyball Australia president Craig Carracher said. “We are now considering enhanced bilateral exchanges between our national senior teams and importantly the development of our youth teams. This week our Under 19s National Squad trained in Tokyo with the Japanese national junior teams at the Japan Olympic Committee National Training Centre.
“The Centre is technologically advanced and confirmed how far technology and dedicated world class facilities can carry the advancements in sports biometrics and analytics. An area where Australia traditionally was a leader and must now reinvest. Japan has been a leading nation in world volleyball and continues to be one of the most important markets for the sport,” he said. “Japanese broadcast partners, equipment and clothing sponsors contribute enormously to world volleyball and our relationship with Japan could not be closer at this time.”
Among the further considerations between the two are:
- More world class event hosting in Asia;
- Opportunities for national team exchanges and knowledge sharing;
- Opportunities to support Tokyo’s hosting in 2020 through increased competitions in Japan;
- Partnership opportunities;
The Japanese president Kenji Kimura, meanwhile, said that he views the partnership as an opportunity to advance snow volleyball – a sport growing in popularity – in the region. The two countries will continue the conversation with meetings about beach volleyball in February in Bangkok and then again at the FIVB meetings in Lausanne later in February.