Sunday, August 05, 2012

At the beach, miles from the sea

Just back from this morning's badminton, here's a wee blog about the beach volley, which is genuinely one of my favourite spectator sports. Unfortunately, when you say you're going to see it, people treat you a bit like you're off to a strip club - all nudges and winks - as if the women there couldn't possibly be taken seriously because they wear bikinis. Which is, of course, deeply annoying and unfair. But then  the situation is not helped by the beach volley authorities, who force the female players to wear the skimpy outfits (unless it's below 15 degrees), thus exacerbating the problem.

Amyway, got to say, for a temporary arena, this was an enormously impressive one....

It's also the first time we've seen proper taps to fill bottles with, rather than a couple of low pressure water fountains. The irony being, of course, that there was nobody filling bottles. Most of the exuberant crowd wanted to drink something stronger than water. In fact, during the short gap between the two matches of our session, I popped to the loo and was amazed to see huge bar queues that must've been taking at least 30 minutes. Seems a bit daft to miss so much of the session just to get a beer, but then I guess it was Saturday evening. 

So here's the arena, which is on Horse Guard's Parade in central London, a stone throw's from Buckingham Palace. The capacity is apparently around 15,000, and the atmosphere - as tends to be the case at beach volley games - was being very skilfully ramped up by the announcer and his music. We saw two matches - Latvia against Germany men's (won by the favoured Germans) and a big upset in the women's, where the Czechs, ranked 11 in the world. beat the Brazil pair, who were ranked 2, in a three set match. It really was a cracking game - the athleticism of the players in this sport is just incredible. It's been amazing to see people raving about beach volley during these Games. Really hope it continues to get some proper TV exposure once they're over. 

Of course, they also like to have dancers during breaks at beach volley, but the vibe was much more tongue-in-cheek / kitsch than the straight-up bikini babes they had in Athens. 

Um, here is the Brazil flag. 

And another one of that incredible backdrop. 

And then it was off to the pub with an old mate from college to watch that incredible athletics gold rush in the athletics stadium. What an amazing Games this is turning out to be. You don't hear many people grumbling about it any more.

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