1964 Olympic Volleyball Teams Recognized in 50th Anniversary

By Bill Kauffman | May 21, 2014, 11:26 p.m. (ET)

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (May 21, 2014) – USA Volleyball celebrated the 50th Anniversary of volleyball’s inclusion in the Olympic Games during the national governing bodies’ annual Dorothy C. Boyce Awards Banquet that took place Wednesday evening in Phoenix.

“USA Volleyball is extra proud to honor the pioneering Olympians on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the first Olympics with volleyball,” USA Volleyball CEO Doug Beal said. “In every case, these were exceptional athletes and frontrunners for the growth of the sport worldwide. We all owe them a huge debt of gratitude and our undying respect. For our women’s team, they opened the door for future women to participate on the world’s largest stage.”

The U.S. participated in the inaugural volleyball Olympics at the 1964 Tokyo Games. The women’s inclusion into the 1964 Olympics has an extra meaning. In a generation before Title IX in this country, volleyball was the first women’s team sport to be contested at the Olympic Games leading to a great step forward for sports gender equality around the world. These ladies not only helped shape the future of sport in the United States, but also worldwide.

“It has been so great seeing all these familiar faces, my former teammates,” said Nancy Owen Fortner, member of the 1964 U.S. Olympic Women’s Volleyball Team. “I just wish Mary Perry and Gail O’Rourke and Patti Lucas-Bright could be here tonight. Many, many fond memories of all those girls. It is so amazing to be a part of the first women’s Olympic volleyball team. 50 years ago, I was only 21 years old. I just remember that I was so young and so in awe of everything about the Olympics.”

During the 50 years of Olympic volleyball, Team USA has won three men’s Olympic gold medals and a bronze medal, while the women have secured three silver medals and a bronze medal. No other country has won at least one Olympic medal in volleyball or beach volleyball in every Olympic Games since 1984.

“I have watched volleyball the last 50 years, and the brightest spot has been the young women who have been injected into the picture,” said Mike O’Hara, member of the 1964 U.S. Olympic Men’s Volleyball Team. “When I played early on, there were not nearly as many women playing volleyball as men – that is both on the indoor courts and on the beach. And now everywhere you look around the world, Beach volleyball is being watched and applauded. All young kids want to play.”

According to 1964 U.S. Olympic Men’s Volleyball Team captain Pete Velasco, there was great pride playing for one’s country in the first Olympics to include volleyball.

“My experience in the 1964 Olympics was very exciting for me because I was not only representing the United States, which I was proud, but also for the state of Hawaii,” Velasco said.

The United States Olympic Committee joined in the celebration as its CEO Scott Blackmun sent a video message to the 1964 Olympians and the Boyce attendees.

“On behalf of the U.S. Olympic Committee, I want to join everyone tonight in recognizing the great athletes on our 1964 Olympic Team who competed in volleyball,” Blackmun said. “That was important not only because it was the first time volleyball was in the Games, but it also was the first time that the women had a team sport at the Olympic Games. As we look back over the last 20 years, some of our best memories from the Summer Games have been in the sport of volleyball. Karch Kiraly, Misty May, Kerri Walsh – you all have done so much to build the great, great sport. I want to say thanks to Doug Beal and USA Volleyball for having the wisdom to look back to 1964 and say this was a really important time for us.”