2015-06-02 14:00:00 CEST
POREČ (Croatia) – Sporting history was made Tuesday as the first-ever Swatch Beach Volleyball Major Series was launched in Poreč, Croatia with a VIP press conference and explosive early-round action.
From June 2 through 7, the biggest international stars in beach volleyball are charging the sand at the series opener to contend toward precious Olympic qualifying ranking that could lift them all the way to Copacabana Beach in Rio next year.
The Swatch Major Series was created to take beach volleyball to the next level, positioning it on the world stage of top global sports. The mayor of Poreč, Edi Štifanić, was among the dignitaries welcoming the elite athletes as well as crowds of fans, who have sold out all the accommodations in the dazzling seaside destination. Poreč is hosting a beach volleyball tournament for the very first time, in a purpose-built stadium including a 4,000-seat Center Court.
Joining Štifanić on the podium to answer the questions of an eager crowd of journalists were Brazilian legends Emanuel Rego and Ricardo Santos, who have reunited with the aim of repeating their Gold Medal-winning experience at the 2004 Olympics in Athens. Also taking part were the German women’s team of Karla Borger and Britta Büthe, as well as Croatian stars Maja Rosko and Antea Tadic. Croatian men were equally well represented by Ivan Zeljkovic and Filip Silic.
“It’s a great feeling to be in Croatia. This season is important for all beach volleyball athletes, and all countries, as they want to be in the Olympics. It’s our dream – a big dream,” commented Rego, known to the world simply as Emanuel. “The organization here is amazing, and I hope this new step of the Swatch Major Series can be another level of beach volleyball. From the beautiful weather and the happy faces I see, I think that it will be.”
The Poreč Major is the biggest sporting event ever held in Croatia in terms of the number of superstars competing and the prize money available, USD$800,000. Tuesday started out with thrilling match-ups, as key men’s teams launched into make-or-break competition to earn the chance to represent their countries in Qualification on Wednesday. Meanwhile, for women the Qualifying rounds are underway, as the international roster explodes into action to earn a spot in the Main Draw – which will include 32 teams each for men and women.
For 2015 the Swatch Major Series, an expansion of the FIVB World Tour and official part of the Olympic qualification process, marks a new era in the sport and includes not only the tournament in Poreč, but also tournaments in Stavanger, Norway (June 9–14) and Gstaad, Switzerland (July 7–12), and the Swatch Beach Volleyball Season Final in Fort Lauderdale in the United States (September 29–October 4).