Volleyball : Copacabana perfect setting for showcase event

Tue Aug 2, 2016 3:15pm EDT
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By Steve Keating

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - They have played for Olympic gold in parks, next to car parks and on royal parade grounds, but at the Rio Games beach volleyball will actually be played -- on a beach.

Only once since the sport became part of the Olympic program in 1996 has beach volleyball, the most hedonistic of Olympic events, been staged on a genuine stretch of sand shared by sun worshippers and surfers.

With the exception of the 2000 Sydney Olympics, when the iconic Bondi Beach was the venue, beach volleyball has been contested on man-made surfaces to a backdrop of manufactured beach vibe.

Beach volleyball's Olympic debut came in an Atlanta suburb at Clayton County Park, while the Faliro Olympic Beach Volleyball Center used for the 2004 Athens Games popped up beside a car park.

The 2008 Beijing Olympic venue at Chaoyang Park was built on top of an old industrial complex while the 2012 Olympics site was constructed on Horse Guards Parade in the heart of London.

The United States, having invented the game, can claim to be the home of beach volleyball, but its soul lives in Brazil, and Copacabana Beach the altar where they come to worship.

The stretch of white sand watched over by the statue of Christ the Redeemer is probably the most famous beach in the world, making Copacabana the quintessential venue for the sport's showcase event.

Kerri Walsh Jennings has topped the podium at the last three Olympics but this will be the first time the American has gone for gold on an actual beach.   Continued...

Beach volleyball player Paulo Nicolai of Italy trains July 30, 2016. REUTERS/Ivan Alvarado