The world volleyball governing body, FIVB, has granted Puerto Rico a spot in this year’s last Olympic qualifier tournament, after Kenya and Peru withdrew from the event.
The eight-team qualifier, billed for 17-25 May in Tokyo, Japan, will be the last event to be used by the international federation to pick the women’s teams that qualify for the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games in August.
Kenya and Peru participated in last November’s World Cup in Japan, but failed to book the tickets to Beijing. At the World Cup, four teams, comprising winners Italy, first runner-up, Brazil, second runner-up, USA and hosts, China qualified for the games. Russia, Cuba, Venezuela and Algeria also qualified by virtue of winning their respective regional (confederation) qualifiers. In all, 12 women’s teams will slug it out at the games.
Having missed the tickets at the World Cup, Kenya and Peru were given another chance – the African and South American Olympic qualifiers – where both teams finished as runners-up, missing the ticket once again.
In the African qualifiers, staged in Algiers January, Algeria emerged winners an d sailed into the Olympics, while Venezuela snatched the coveted ticket in the South American eliminations.
Determined to give Kenya and Peru another chance, FIVB organized a play-off betw een the two countries which was to be played on a home-and-away format, with the winner heading straight to the Olympics. But cash-strapped Kenya Volleyball Federation (KVF) backed off, citing financial hiccups. The reasons behind Peru’s withdrawal are, however, unknown as at the time of filing this report.
To fill the gap, FIVB gave Puerto Rico, a member of the North American confederation, the slot. Before settling for Puerto Rico, the international federation said it approached Uruguay and Egypt, who were ranked third (each) in the South American and African rankings for the play-off, but they were not ready.
For Egypt, the federation noted the North Africans have not featured in recent continental qualification tournaments. “Eight teams will compete in Tokyo for the last four places at the Beijing Olympics: hosts Japan, Thailand, Korea, Kazakhstan (best-ranked teams in the Asian Continental Championship), Serbia, Poland (best world-ranked team from Central Europe, Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico (best world-ranked teams from the North Am e rican Confederation,” said the federation.
The tournament also doubles as the Asian Olympic qualifier, with the best three teams plus the best Asian team booking their tickets for Beijing.