Return to: Olympics 2012

Bikinis Optional

Changes are afoot, and underfoot, in London

by Catherine McNiff

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Though a relatively young Olympic sport, the images of beach volleyball are quite familiar to many. First sanctioned in Atlanta in 1996, beach volleyball is a physically demanding and highly entertaining sport to watch. We've gotten used to the requirements: sand, net, ball, visors, sunglasses, bikinis. But things might look a little different in London this summer. First, London's pretty short on beaches, so 5,000 tons of sand from a quarry in Godstone, Surrey, will be brought in to create a temporary shore on the storied Horse Guards Parade, which dates back to 1745 and is named for the soldiers who have been protecting the monarchy since 1660. It is where, on the second Saturday of June each year, the Queen's Birthday Parade, or the Trooping of the Colour, takes place.

New Uniform Rules

The other change you might notice is the uniform. The governing body of beach volleyball, the International Volleyball Federation (FIVB), approved a rule change in March 2012. According to the FIVB, there were two uniform choices for female players: a one-piece bathing suit or a bikini with a maximum side width of 7 cm. Now there are three new options, "Players can wear shorts of a maximum length of 3cm above the knee with sleeved or sleeveless tops or a full body suit." The changes acknowledge religious and cultural differences in the wider world, while also being practical; the uniform options have been in place for five Continental Cups, which produce team qualifiers for the Olympic Games.

Words on the Beach

Now that you know better what you might see, here is some lingo that will help round out your beach volleyball know-how:

  • Spike – to smash the ball over-arm into the opponent's court.
  • Block – preventing the attacking ball from coming over the net by forming a wall of hands at the net.
  • Dig – a defensive passing shot from close to the ground, usually following an opposition spike.
  • Setter – the player who sets the ball for the attacker, usually on the second of the team’s three permitted shots.
  • Wipe – to return the ball off an opposing block so it lands out of bounds.


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