As London fell to its knees at the hands of civil disobedience last week, there was a party atmosphere surrounding the picturesque location of Horseguards’ Parade.
While Messrs Cameron and Clegg were deciding how to fix ‘Broke Britain’, within an earshot of Whitehall the crème of the beach volleyball crop gathered for the FIVB International series.
Doubling up as a test event for the impending Olympic Games, 2,500 fans filled up a makeshift arena which in a year’s time will see an attendance nearer the 10,000 mark.
As London gears up for a schedule of dummy runs before the world turns its attention to these shores, there was something uplifting as Primal Scream’s ‘Moving on Up’ boomed out over the tannoy, giving the feeling that maybe just maybe London will be ready for next year, and that the Olympic Games will be a success.
Nevertheless, it was a day designed to showcase Beach Volleyball at its finest, and on the whole it was a resounding success. From the effervescent Visa dancers, to the 2,274 tonnes of specially selected Redhill 28 sand, everything was meticulously planned to ensure that the day went without a hitch.
Volleyball is a remarkably accessible sport and within ten minutes of watching you find yourself no long an idle spectator, but more akin to an expert. The athletes are agile and the competition exciting, which is surprising considering the difficulty of even running on sand let alone playing sport on it.
Add to the athletic prowess of these sun-kissed beauties a PA system booming out dance music and a troupe of gyrating dancers and you have a carnival atmosphere. Not bad for an overcast August in London-town.
There has been a lot of interest surrounding Beach Volleyball for the 2012 Olympics. So much so, that it is one of the most sought after events in terms of ticketing, after the men’s 100m sprint final.
It therefore seemed like the perfect way to introduce the sport to a population who have had little to no exposure to it before. While many were no doubt in attendance through intrigue rather than fanaticism, they would have left with a sense of enjoyment that you simply don’t get from watching other events.
When 2012 finally rolls around the sport will take care of itself, but skeptics will still question whether the games have really been worth it. One line of argument will suggest that with the plethora of organic sites and locations, London couldn’t afford not to host the Olympics.
The likes of Horseguards’ Parade offer the perfect location for Beach Volleyball, while Hyde Park’s Serpentine rightfully hosts the open water swimming.
And with British sporting institutions such as Lord’s cricket ground [archery], Wimbledon [tennis] and Wembley [football] included in the venue list, London offers spectators and visitors alike a completely unique experience.
Beijing was lauded with numerous plaudits for its fantastic arenas and stadia, rightfully so, but there was something missing from China in 2008. Everything was built for a purpose and therefore lacked soul and character, something London has an abundance of.
It is no surprise that Horseguards’ is being used for this purpose. It is the perfect location for an event which is in complete contrast to the area which surrounds it. Many say politics and sport simply don’t mix, but in this circumstance even Mr Cameron may take a cheeky peek from his office window.
Check out some of the highlights of the FIVB International Volleyball series in London
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