June 13 - Beach volleyball qualifying for the London 2012 Olympics will begin in Russia next month, it has been announced.

The International Volleyball Federation (FIVB) announced the start of the process following confirmation of the European Volleyball Confederation (CEV) Continental Beach Volleyball Cup with the opening tournament set for Yantarniy, Russia, from July 21-25.

The FIVB approved the competition system of the European Continental Beach Volleyball Cup proposed by CEV.

The Continental Beach Volleyball Cup is a country versus country Olympic qualifying event for continents over a two year period broken down into sub-zone, zone and continental finals.

There are a total of 24 places available in the men and women's tournaments in London with a place reserved for Britain as host nation in each.

The 16 highest ranked countries in the world rankings as of June 18, 2012, will also qualify, although each country will be limited to two teams in the tournaments which are due to be held at Horse Guards Parade, the parade ground that lies at the heart of London’s ceremonial life, and hosts the Trooping of the Colour event that takes place on the Queen’s official birthday each year.

The five winners of the Continental Beach Volleyball Cup - one from each Continent - will also compete at London 2012 with the remaining places going to the the winner’s and runner’s up of the Beach Volleyball World Cup Final Olympic Qualification tournament which is open to teams which have not yet qualified through any other options.

"This is a landmark moment for the CEV and the FIVB and with 32 countries due to participate, it illustrates the popularity of the event," CEV President and FIVB executive vice-president André Meyer said.

"The Continental Beach Volleyball Cup is a revolutionary competition which provides an excellent opportunity for a large number of countries to qualify for one of the most prestigious events in beach volleyball.

"We are looking forward to organising a fascinating tournament spread over two years which will encompass the entire continent and emphasis the global aspect and universality of our sport."

The United States won both the men and women's gold medals at Beijing in 2008.

Kerri Walsh and Misty May-Treanor defeated China's Wang Jie and Tian Jia while Todd Rogers and Phil Dalhausser (pictured) beat Brazilian pair Fabio Luiz Magalhães and Marcio Araujo.

The European Continental Beach Volleyball Cup comprises of eight tournaments at the sub-zone phase with a maximum of four countries - each country participates with two teams per gender - per tournament.

The 32 European nations have been split into two zones - west and east - with 16 countries per zone drawn into four tournaments.

After the event in Yantarniy, the competition will move to Illichivsk in Ukraine on September 3-5 and  Las Palmas de Gran Canaria in Spain on September 10-12.

Further events are due to be organised in Greece, Slovenia, France, Serbia, Turkey and Malta.

All will feature men and women.

The top two countries from each tournament will advance to the zonal phase in 2011, which will feature four tournaments per gender of four countries each, followed by the final phase in 2012 which will determine the European/CEV Continental Beach Volleyball Cup winner.