FIVB international referees in London with Olympic dreams

17th August 2011

While the 24 women's teams from 15 countries that have been in London competing in the 2011 Visa FIVB Beach Volleyball International, an Olympic test event that is part of the London Prepares series and started Monday at the iconic Horse Guards Parade, are striving for return trips for the London 2012 Olympic Games they aren't alone in their quest.

Also working diligently at this event are 12 international referees from the Fédération Internationale de Volleyball who are all hoping to make the same trip to London as well next year.

Under the direct supervision, keen eye and insightful instruction here in London of Jose Casanova, FIVB Beach Volleyball Referee Commissioner and member of the FIVB Beach Volleyball Commission, the 12 international referees in London this week have been joined by 31 international candidates from Great Britain as the country continues to develop its level of interest in the sport.

The London 2012 Olympics will utilize a group of 16 FIVB international referees, and included on the roster will be two from the host country-Great Britain.

Leading candidates for the two "host-nation" referee positions appear to be FIVB referees Damien Searle, who worked the 2008 Beijing Olympics in China, and Greg Thompson, who has been working FIVB Beach Volleyball Swatch World Tour events since 2007.

In addition to Searle and Thompson, the other FIVB international referees representing 10 additional countries, working at this year's Olympic test event at Horse Guards Parade are Giovanni Bake of the Republic of South Africa, Rui Carvalho, Portugal, Christian Dechoux, France, Darryl Friesen, Canada, Hongyu Liu, China, Elzir Oliveira, Brazil, Charalampos Papadogoulas, Greece, Drago Peslac, Croatia, Glenn Sapp, United States and Ehab Tadres, Egypt.

While the FIVB will not make its final decision and announcement of referees for London 2012 until well into next year, the group here in London this year is certainly on the consideration list for the honor of representing their respective countries at the Olympic Games.

In the group here in London this week, Canada's Friesen has worked as a beach volleyball referee at the three most recent Olympic Games, 2000 in Sydney, 2004 in Athens and 2008 in Beijing.  The other four referees with Olympic resumes working this week in London are Brazil�s Oliveira (2004) along with China�s Hongyu, USA's Sapp and Great Britain's Searle, who all were part of the referee team at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.

With next year's Olympic Games being held in his home country and having never worked this prestigious event before, Great Britain's Thompson, 40, views representing his country and working the Olympics as a beach volleyball referee as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and a dream that he certainly hopes comes true.

Employed in the technical division of England's Vidafone mobile network communications company, Thompson, who with his wife and two young children lives in the tiny rural village of Newbury, west of London and south of Oxford in the south central part of the country, has made extreme sacrifices with his family and his career, like all of the internal referees and athletes, to pursue his Olympic dream.

"I don't think I would have made the commitment that I have if it weren't for the fact that the Olympics will be right here in London next year and it would truly be a dream come true if I were selected to represent by my country and work as a referee for my favorite sport," said Thompson during a break between matches at the Horse Guards Parade venue.

"This would certainly by my way of getting to the Olympics as a participant because I was never able to as an athlete," added Thompson, who graduated from Southhampton College in 2001 with a degree in electronic engineering. "Beach volleyball will be at the most attractive venue of the entire Olympic Games next year, there is nothing quite like the environment and the history of Great Britain in and around Horse Guard's Parade."

Thompson, who played indoor volleyball for a club team for several years, switched to refereeing and then became even more serious about his new avocation once London was awarded the Olympics back in 2005.

A veteran of 15 FIVB Beach Volleyball Swatch World Tour events over the last four years, Thompson passed his International Course in 2007  that involved two days of theory and testing and five days of practical working a FIVB Satellite event in Vaduz, Liechtenstein.

This season, Thompson has worked world tour events in Myslowice, Poland, Stavanger, Norway, Moscow, and Stare Jablonki, Poland in addition to this week�s Olympic test event in London.

Like most in his country, Thompson is highly excited regarding next year's Olympics, saying, "In Great Britain we do a lot of things very well, especially Royal Weddings, set-piece or showcase sporting occasions and I am proudly looking forward to representing my country in next year's games if I am selected by the FIVB."

"My wife and my family have made significant sacrifices and Vodafone has been very acceptable to allowing me to take the leave necessary to pursue my dream of working the London 2012 Olympic Games. While nothing is certain, I would say that I am confident, but not complacent regarding my prospects of making the FIVB referee team for 2012. In the meantime, I have enjoyed tremendously this opportunity to be working the first FIVB international beach volleyball event ever held in London."

Saturday's action at the Visa FIVB Beach Volleyball International will feature the quarterfinals round of the single-elimination bracket phase of the tournament with the first session of two quarterfinals starting at 13:00 (local time) and the second session of the last two quarterfinal matches beginning at 17:00. On Sunday, the semifinals and medal matches will be held on the stunning Horse Guards Parade centre court.

Being presented by the London 2012 Organising Committee for the Olympic Games (LOCOG) in collaboration with the Fédération Internationale de Volleyball, based in Lausanne, Switzerland, and the British Volleyball Federation, the Visa FIVB Beach Volleyball International Olympic test event carries with it a special $10,000 total purse.

The venue for this event features a 1,500-seat centre court, but for next August's London 2012 Olympics a massive 15,000-seat stadium will be built. The event is part of the London Prepares series that features test events for several Olympic sports.

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FIVB international referees in London with Olympic dreams