British volleyball teams get 2012 Olympics green light
British Olympic boss Andy Hunt and British Volleyball president Richard Callicott greet the decision
By Ollie Williams
Britain's indoor volleyball teams have been told they can take part in the London 2012 Olympics.
The British Olympic Association (BOA) previously said it would only enter the teams if they could deliver "a credible performance and meaningful legacy".
The women's indoor programme lost its funding this year but both teams have now satisfied the BOA's requirements.
"It's fantastic news after all the uncertainty of the past few months," said GB women's captain Lynne Beattie.
"We have been dedicated to that dream for the past four years and giving up that dream was just unthinkable for all of us.
"But we are well aware that this is just the beginning of our next battle. Our focus now is to produce the best-possible performance in London."
The verdict from the BOA is a massive victory for British Volleyball and for all the staff, coaches, and players alike
Ben Pipes Captain, GB men's indoor team
As the Olympics host nation, Britain is automatically awarded places in almost all sports at the Games.
British athletes in most events will not need those host-nation places as they can expect to qualify for London 2012 on merit, by performing well in qualification competitions - like the World Championships - throughout 2011 and the first half of 2012.
But volleyball is one of a handful which will almost certainly have to resort to claiming the host-nation places.
Beach volleyball, handball and water polo are believed to be in a similar situation, but still await the backing of the BOA.
"We are delighted that British Volleyball has put in place a plan to ensure that the men's and women's indoor teams are capable of delivering a credible performance in London 2012," said BOA chief executive Andy Hunt, who will be Team GB's chef de mission at the Olympics.
"They will utilise the unique platform of a home Games to inspire the next generation of volleyball participants."
The decision to allow the indoor volleyball teams to compete at the Games was made by the BOA's Olympic Qualifying Standards Panel, which includes Hunt, BOA Athletes Commission chair Sarah Winckless and Sir Clive Woodward, the BOA's director of sport.
"The verdict from the BOA is a massive victory for British Volleyball and for all the staff, coaches, and players alike," said Ben Pipes, captain of the British men's indoor team.
THE BOA'S OLYMPIC CRITERIA
Sports must demonstrate the following to take up host-nation places at the Games:
"The ability to deliver a credible performance during London 2012."
"A long-term strategy to deliver a meaningful legacy as a result of the profile and visibility associated with the Games, with a particular emphasis on increasing opportunities for participation by athletes, coaches, officials and volunteers at the grassroots level."
"It's a huge day for volleyball history in Britain. Our sporting peers and heroes said yes to us, our dreams, and legacy hopes for volleyball in Britain's sporting future.
"To be a part of the Team GB family is a massive honour. It comes with high demands and expectations, but we are ready, able and proven in meeting these demands."
Britain's female indoor volleyball team is ranked 64th in the world, while the men are ranked a lowly 89th - alongside teams such as Aruba, St Lucia and the Cayman Islands.
However, the rankings span four years and British Volleyball argues they do not reflect recent improvements.
British Volleyball withdrew all public funding from the women's indoor team on 1 October in order to focus its resources elsewhere, a decision which coach Audrey Cooper said would have a "massive impact" on their preparations for 2012.
The team staged a sponsored bike ride from Sheffield to London to raise awareness ahead of the funding cut.
There is no word on the fate of Britain's beach volleyball players, who have been offered host-nation places at the Games but are similarly at the mercy of the BOA.
The men's beach volleyball players, like the women's indoor volleyball team, lost all funding in October.
Andy Hunt will be Team GB's chef de mission at London 2012
"The British public expects every athlete who competes for Team GB to be capable of delivering a credible performance during the Games," said Hunt.
"Significant public investment has been made in preparing British athletes for London 2012 and beyond, and it is entirely appropriate to expect our Olympic athletes will have the ability to be competitive in sports in which, historically, we have not been strong."
But Hunt denied the timing of the announcement, two days before UK Sport publishes its annual funding review, was intended to put pressure on the funding body.
"It's a fortunate coincidence and I hope UK Sport will really consider the results of our analysis very carefully," he said.
"We're really hoping UK Sport will consider strongly supporting the women's team with the £200,000 they need to make sure they can compete."
Handball is the next sport in the BOA's sights, with water polo also likely to receive a decision early in 2011.
Basketball is the only sport in which Britain has not been offered host-nation places. The game's world governing body, Fiba, has yet to decide if the British teams are worthy.
"We are reliant on Fiba to confirm to us that host nation places are available for the teams, and the indications are that that will be late in March 2011," said Hunt.
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