Volleyball guide - London 2012 Olympic Games

Your complete guide to volleyball ahead of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games

Photograph: Volleyball via Shutterstock

Converted: Behold the pace, power and non-stop excitement of London 2012’s most underrated event.

Confused: Awesome, is this the one they play in bikinis on the beach? Oh, it isn’t.

RECOMMENDED: See our full list of London 2012 Olympic sport guides

Volleyball - The essential guide

Street cred: One of the most popular sports in the world but its existence barely registers in the UK, where it was one of the last London 2012 events to sell out of tickets.

Who’s good? Brazil and the USA contested both finals at Beijing 2008, winning one each.

The basics: The aim is to hit the ball onto the floor of the opponent’s court. You’re allowed three touches to return the ball but no player can have two consecutive touches. Even though hands and arms are normally used, players can actually hit the ball with any part of the body.

Athlete to watch: The flamboyant Giba is volleyball’s biggest superstar and he hails from the city of Londrina, Brazil. A 2012 omen?

Almost useless fact: Volleyball was invented at a Massachusetts YMCA in 1895 for middle-aged men who required a less strenuous alternative to basketball.

As seen in: ‘The Iron Ladies’ (2000), a Thai comedy about a men’s volleyball team of gay and transgender players, is genuinely worth a watch. ‘Air Bud: Spikes Back’ (2006), about a dog with an amazing ability to play volleyball, maybe not so much.

Do say: ‘The Brazilian men are showing off their colossal spikes.’

Don't say: ‘Zinedine Zidane needs to teach this lot what a volley is.’