Beach volleyball not as attractive in London
Raincoats, umbrellas, a heavy grey sky and a wet surface: the picture fits central London like a glove, but it is less suitable for the impressive beach volleyball stadium that has been set up there for the Olympics.
The sport’s tanned players had known for years that the Games would be held in the British capital in 2012, so the rain can hardly have taken them unawares. They are just trying to cope with it.
“We’re not enjoying ourselves, but we’re adapting and playing well,” says Brazil’s Emanuel Rego, who together with partner Alison Cerutti are current men’s world champions and number one in the world rankings.
The weather in London is “unpredictable,” the South American says. Over the course of a single day, Horse Guards Parade, where the stadium has been erected, can experience cold weather, sunny spells and a bit of rain.
“Today, when I got up and saw the weather, I thought: ’It’s going to be a tough day to play beach volleyball’,” Emanuel said Tuesday.
However, during the match against a Swiss pair that started at 10am, the undershirt and long lycra pants the Brazilians wore under their usual strip were at times too much.
In the following match, the women from Spain and Argentina wore just bikinis, because the umpires — who were themselves wearing raincoats - decided it was not cold enough for anything else.
“We’re used to playing in the rain,” said Spain’s Liliana Fernandez. “The usual thing is to have some sun, but it’s not always out. We train in the wind, the rain, in any kind of weather.”
Beach volleyball is an increasingly popular sport. Its world tour goes around the globe, from South America to China, through the Netherlands and Norway.
“There, we play in the pouring rain, to the point that we cannot look up,” Fernandez noted.
Play never stops. Whether it rains, thunders or even hails, the match goes on, and only lightning is a cause to suspend it.
“I once played in Saint Petersburg in 8 degrees (Celsius), that was cold,” recalled Emanuel, who prepared for London 2012 by competing in places like Berlin, Moscow or Switzerland.
Simple, athletic, fast and very visual, beach volleyball — a sport that encourages a cult of the body — attracts growing numbers of spectators and players.
“This is not Wimbledon!” presenters shout through the speakers to encourage spectators to show more enthusiasm.
A group of Spaniards dressed in flamenco dresses needed little extra motivation. However, just in case, around 15 cheerleaders in Hawaiian swimsuits performed on the sand between sets, as music blasted through the speaker system.
“Beach volleyball is a party,” says Emanuel. “That’s why the more sun there is, the more people enjoy it.”
He should know that, since he trains on Rio de Janeiro’s beaches.
There, the Olympic tournament is set to be played in four years’ time in the iconic Copacabana: London couldn’t beat that, even if were sunny.