Cambodia is on the verge of achieving a rare feat in the world of Standing Volleyball. Preparations are well underway in Phnom Penh to stage the coveted World Cup in the last week of July this year, giving the Kingdom the unique distinction of organising the biennial international showpiece three times in a row since 2007.
The world governing body of standing volleyball (WOVD) has named Barry Couzner of Australia as the Tournament Director for the 2011 World Cup. He has enjoyed a long and distinguished career as a volunteer in the world of volleyball, holding a wide variety of roles including player, coach, referee, administrator and official.
In 2008, Couzner was decorated with the Medal of the Order of Australia by the Governor General of the Commonwealth of Australia for his outstanding services to the sport, both down under and internationally.
In the last ten years, he has been actively involved as a volunteer with the World Organisation Volleyball for the Disabled. In an interview with Post sports writer H S Manjunath, Couzner discusses his views on the upcoming event.
Cambodia has been awarded the 2011 World Cup for the third time in a row. How significant is this?
The fact that Cambodia is about to host three World Cups in a row over six years is a testament to their world leadership in the field of Standing Volleyball. It is also an indicator of the faith that the world body (the WOVD) has in the capacity of Cambodia to organise and manage an event of this magnitude from all angles: technically, politically and promotion-wise.
What is so special about Cambodia?
Cambodia holds the most successful annual Standing Volleyball League in the world (the Cambodian National Volleyball League for the Disabled) and this underpins the national team and its participation in the World Cup.
Cambodian Volleyball is privileged to have a very dedicated and passionate supporter in the form of General Secretary Chris Minko, who has driven the development over the years.
Can you put the World Cup in perspective from your role as the Tournament Director?
To put it simply, this is now the premier world competition for Standing Volleyball athletes, so it is essential that it is organised at the highest possible standard that I am sure Cambodia can deliver.
The event also has the potential to restore Standing Volleyball back to the Paralympic Program, provided enough countries around the world are actively participating at the local and national levels.
From the organisational point of view, what would you be looking for from the CNVLD?
I am expecting the very best conditions for the athletes, both on and off the court and a far-reaching media and promotions campaign that will raise the profile of the sport in Cambodia, and fill the Olympic Stadium!
What are the logistical challenges for the host country in a multinational event like the World Cup?
Specifically, I think that the big issue will be the standard of the facilities at the Olympic Stadium, as I understand that the floor needs some repairs and this is very important for the athletes. In general, Cambodia has demonstrated in the past that it can handle the logistical challenges of transport, food, accommodation and marketing.
Is there a possibility of resurfacing the Olympic Stadium courts in time for the World Cup?
I understand that Chris Minko is negotiating a deal that will enable the Taraflex surface to be used. This is the best surface for volleyball in the world and is rolled out over the top of the existing concrete flooring.
It is softer for the athletes to land on and looks great on television.
With less than four months to go for opening of this event, are you happy with the way things are moving in terms of arrangements for the visiting teams, venue, choice of officials etc?
I am very happy with progress to date, but much remains to be done.
It is only when you organise an event like this yourself, that you fully understand how much work is required to be successful. It requires a large team of people working together over a long period of time – and many sleepless nights!
How is Standing Volleyball different from the normal form of the game?
There are very few differences between Standing Volleyball and Olympic Volleyball that is played by the world’s best athletes. The court size is the same, as is the net height, the rules and the scoring system.
The biggest difference is the fact that all Standing Volleyball athletes have some form of physical disability, and that they are categorised into three disability groups – A, B and C.
In Standing Volleyball, only one “A” player (minimal disability) is allowed on the court at any one time, and teams must have at least one “C” player (major disability) on the court at all times.
How crucial is Standing Volleyball in the promotion of disability awareness around the world?
Standing Volleyball is one sport from amongst many, which is critical to promoting an awareness of disability around the world. In fact, sport is a great vehicle for showing that people with so-called ‘disabilities’ are very ‘able’ and can do some amazing things with their bodies.
Witness the very best Standing Volleyball rally in a match and marvel at how they can move and adapt to their ‘disability’. It is easy to forget that they have prostheses, for example.
Can you explain some of the salient features of Standing Volleyball?
The most remarkable feature is, in general, how well the athletes have adapted to their ‘disability’ and the standard of ball control they can reach in a competitive situation, so that they achieve longer and more interesting rallies.
You have done so much for disabled sports in general and volleyball in particular. What are your plans for the future?
I wish to continue to serve the WOVD as a volunteer Chair of the Technical Commission and as Chair of the WOVD Beach Volleyball Taskforce and maybe attend the London Paralympic Games as an Official in 2012 - my fourth Paralympic Games as an official!