09-22-2004, 06:32 AM
Volleyball in China
On the heels of the Asian beach volleyball games coming to China, a little history of volleyball in China.
Volleyball was invented in 1895 by William G. Morgan who was a physical director1 of the Holyyoke, Massachusetts YMCA2. Volleyball, unlike "too vigorous3" basketball, was designed as a less strenuous4, indoor sport for businessmen. Volleyball, which combines the characteristics of tennis, handball5, and basketball, was first named "Mintonette." A year later, after Dr. Halstead watched a demonstration given at the YMCA in nearby Springfield, Massachusetts, he suggested the name be changed to "Volleyball" because the main character of the game was to volley the ball back and forth over the net. In 1910, thanks to Max Exner and Howard Crokner's effort, volleyball was officially transmitted6 to China.
Wang: Volleyball was transmitted to China as early as 1910. And in early days it became very popular among laundry workers7 in Chinatown in the U.S.. Do you know why?
John: I am not sure. I know volleyball was invented in America, and right at the beginning of World War I, volleyball began to spread worldwide, and it became really popular in Asian countries such as in Japan, China and the Philippines through the YMCA network.
Wang: But why did only Chinese laundry workers in Chinatown like to play the game?
John: I guess before the laundry workers immigrated to the U.S., they already knew about the game. And besides it was easy to learn and fun to play.
Wang: Very Good! It is true that most of the laundry workers were very poor and in those days they could not afford any other kind of entertainment in Chinatown.
John: Furthermore, the language barrier and discrimination against the Chinese made the world outside of Chinatown a hostile place.8 And volleyball was easy to play, and it was accessible and affordable for people with limited means9. Isn't that right?
John: But you still need a net, a ball and a court10 to play the game.
Wang: Not necessarily. You know the Chinese are very creative. Lacking proper equipment for the game didn't stop them from playing. Without the net, the Chinese laundry workers used a rope or a piece of string as the "net." They used stone markers to define the limits of the court. Sometimes they drew its boundaries11 on the ground with a stick.
John: Awesome!12 They were really creative. But how about the ball? Did they use a real ball?
Wang: No, they couldn't even afford to buy a ball, so they made a ball out of cloth.
John: That's so incredible! No wonder nowadays volleyball is still very popular in Chinatowns. But of course they no longer use a cloth-ball to play now.
Wang: No kidding! Do you know when volleyball became an official game in the Olympics?
John: I think volleyball made its first demonstration in 1924 at the Olympic Games in Paris. And the International Olympic Committee (IOC) made the game a non-Olympic sport in 1949. But it was not until 1964 that the first Olympic volleyball tournaments13 were played in Tokyo.
Wang: It took four decades to have volleyball to become one of the official games in the Olympics. Who won the gold medals?
John: The gold medal for the men went to the USSR, I think. And I am not sure about the women's gold medal.
Wang: If I am not mistaken, I think the gold medal for the women went to Japan. And ever since, the Japanese women's volleyball teams pretty much dominated the game for many years.
John: How many players are there on a team, do you know?
Wang: Volleyball was invented to be played by any number of players. Later the rules were modified many times. In earlier days, teams were made up of 16 players, and later the number of players on the court again became variable ?being anything from 2 to 6 for each team.
John: I have seen games with 9-player teams with three rows on each side.
Wang: I know. Different countries have adopted different rules, and the height of the net and the size of the court were all different. And how to establish homogeneous14 rules throughout the world became a hot topic in the late 1930s.
John: Did all the rules of the game finally become unified? How about the Olympic Teams? How many players are there on a team?
Wang: I think the number of players on each team was set at 6.
John: Do you know when volleyball will be played at the Athens Olympic Games, 2004?
Wang: According to the formal website of the Athens Olympics, the indoor volleyball competition will take place at the Peace and Friendship Stadium August 14-29, and the outdoor beach volleyball15 will take place August 14-25.
John: beach volleyball?
Wang: Yeah! I think it's so ridiculous to play volleyball at the beach. It does not sound very professional or dignified16.
John: Don't be so old-fashioned17. What's wrong with beach volleyball?
Wang: Since it was introduced as one of the Olympic events at Atlanta in 1996, I think all American spectators were mainly interested in watching the "players on the beach," not necessarily the game itself.
John: I don't agree with you. You are wrong!
Wang: Why not? Why am I wrong?
John: Beach volleyball actually has a long history. As early as 1927, beach volleyball became the principal sport in a French nudist camp18 founded in Franconville.
Wang: I thought beach volleyball was invented in the U.S..
John: I guess the Americans made the game more popular. The first two-man beach volleyball game was played in Santa Monica, California in 1930. And it is said that people would escape the Great Depression19 by going to the beach to play volleyball.
Wang: It seems to me that beach volleyball is more like an entertainment show or beauty contest.20 The nature of the game doesn't seem very serious!
John: I am sure it has its own merits21. Otherwise the International Olympic Committee would not grant beach volleyball Olympic medal status.
Wang: Maybe you have a point. But I still don't like it.
John: Hey! Wang, have you heard that the venue for 2008 Beach Volleyball Final could be at Tian'anmen Square?
Wang: Don't be ridiculous! Don't make fun of us!
John: I am not joking! It is said that the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games Bid Committee22 said the final match could be held at the world's biggest square, if China wins the bid.
Wang: Really? Well, China is going to host the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing for sure, so that means the final game will be played at the Tian'anmen Square?
John: It looks like it's going to happen. According to a report I read a while ago, China's Volleyball Association has even delivered a formal letter to the Federation Internationale de Volleyball (FIVB) to confirm the venue!23
Wang: I hope the report is true.
John: Me too.