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By Lisa Flueckiger, Contributing Reporter

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The International Volleyball Federation has chosen Rio de Janeiro as host for this year’s World League Final games from July 15th to 19th. The games will be hosted at the Maracanãzinho and also serve as a test event for the 2016 Olympic Games and its volleyball competition.

The Maracanãzinho will host this year's FIVB World League Finals, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil News
The Maracanãzinho will host this year’s FIVB World League Finals, photo courtesy of FIVB/Divulgação.

The Group 1 Finals of the FIVB Volleyball World League will feature six men’s teams: the host country, top two teams from Pool A and Pool B plus the winner of Group 2. They will be playing for the title of the 26th edition of the World League, the biggest edition so far featuring a record 32 participating teams.

Last year’s World League had 28 teams compete for the title and the U.S. defeated Brazil in the Group 1 Finals in Florence, Italy.

This year was the first time, where several countries (Australia, Brazil, Iran and Poland) had made bids to host the final. Rio de Janeiro, and therefore Brazil, was chosen as the final host in order for the city to prepare for the 2016 Olympic Games.

The Olympic volleyball competition, as the only sports of the Games, will be hosted at Rio de Janeiro’s Maracanãzinho, the indoor stadium next to the Maracanã, which also regularly hosts games of the Brazilian volleyball league. The FIVB finals in 2008 had also been hosted at the Rio venue that was opened in 1954.

Volleyball, next to beach volleyball, is a very popular sport in Brazil, as the country is a nine-time World League winner and 2014 silver medalist. The competition also attracted the most attention for 2016 Olympic Games tickets (27 percent) ahead of football (21.9 percent), swimming (21 percent) and athletics (20.6 percent) in the first phase of the 2016 Olympics ticketing registration process.

“Hosting the world’s top volleyball players at the spiritual home of the sport in Brazil will be a fantastic way to start the first wave of Rio 2016 events,” said Agberto Guimarães, Rio 2016’s Executive Director of Sport, in a press statement. “Volleyball’s huge popularity in Brazil is well known, and guarantees that the competition will take place in an electric atmosphere.”

Rio de Janeiro is set to receive around 39 test events for the 2016 Olympics starting from May 2015 until the Games in August 2016. The committee has set up a page here to follow those test events.

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