Dates: July 21-Aug. 4; men play every other day.
Venues: University of Georgia and the Omni.
July 21 _ 12:30 a.m.-2 a.m.
July 23 _ 12:41 a.m.-2:11 a.m.
July 25 _ 12:41 a.m.-2:11 a.m.
July 27 _ 12:30 a.m.-2 a.m.
July 29 _ 12:41 a.m.-2:11 a.m.
July 31 _ 7:30 p.m.-midnight; 12:41 a.m.-2:11 a.m.
Aug. 2 _ 7:30 p.m.-midnight.
Aug. 4 _ 7 a.m.-5:30 p.m.
July 21-29 _ preliminary matches.
July 31-Aug. 1 _ quarterfinals.
Aug. 2 _ 7th-place, 5th-place, semifinals.
Aug. 4 _ bronze and gold medal matches.
Pool play: There's two pools of six teams each. Four emerge from each pool to play in the championship round.
U.S. pool schedule:
July 21 _ vs. Poland, 7:30 p.m.
July 23 _ vs. Argentina, 4 p.m.
July 25 _ vs. Cuba, 7:30 p.m.
July 27 _ vs. Brazil, 7:30 p.m.
July 29 _ vs. Bulgaria, 7:30 p.m.
Rules: New international rules allow players to serve from anywhere behind the end line. Also, a new rule relaxes the way in which players can play the ball defensively. Contact can be made with any part of the body, and does not have to be as clean as contact made during a rally. These Games could mark the first time a ball is kicked during a rally.
Fun fact: The first ball used in the sport was a basketball, which proved too heavy. A soccer ball was next, then the lighter, but uncontrollable bladder of a basketball before the modern volleyball was designed.
All-time U.S. best: Most volleyball fans know Karch Kiraly as the King of the Beach. But before Kiraly sank his toes into the sand circuit he left his mark as the United States' most prolific Olympian, leading the 1984 and '88 teams to gold medals. This year, look for him in Olympic sand as beach volleyball makes its debut.
Analysis: Brazil won Olympic gold in 1992, but Italy has won every major international competition since _ the 1994 World Championships, the 1995 World Cup and World League titles in '94 and '95. Both are deep, heavy hitting teams, with the Italians getting the nod in the serving department with no fewer than four lethal jump servers. The Netherlands has exceptional blocking.
Gold _ Italy
Silver _ Brazil
Bronze _ The Netherlands
_ JOANNE KORTH