London 2012 Guide to…Beach Volleyball

Beginning on Californian beaches in the 1920s, Beach Volleyball soon took off worldwide and became much more than just a casual game by the sea.

  • Just volleyball on a beach, yes?

For the most part yes, although there are a couple of major differences. It goes without saying, but I’ll do it anyway – Beach Volleyball is played outside on a beach.

The other variation is the composition of a team: there are only two players on a Beach Volleyball team, compared with six on a volleyball side.

  • Olympic History

After being recognised as an official discipline in 1986, Beach Volleyball then became an Olympic sport at Atlanta in 1996.

  • Essential stuff you might like to know

A volleyball court measures 16m x 8m, and the aim is to land the ball on the other side of the net. After a serve (when the ball is fed to the opposition), a team is allowed three touches before hitting it over to the opposition.

A game is played over a best of three sets, up to 21 points but 15 in the final set. A two point lead is needed to win a set.

  • On the beach in London

A temporary arena is to be constructed in London, on Horse Guard’s Parade. It will be covered in 3,000 tonnes of sand.

There will be 24 men’s and 24 women’s teams competing at the Games. The teams will be divided into six pools, which are then followed by the knockout stages.

  • Star countries

Brazil and the USA have won all the Olympic gold medals on offer since the sport’s debut in 1996. The only exception was in the 2000 Games in Sydney, when Natalie Cook and Kerri Pottharst took gold for Australia.

The American pairing of Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh became the first Beach Volleyball team to win consecutive Olympic golds after winning in Athens in 2004 and Beijing in 2008. Their final match in Beijing was their 108th straight win in all competitions.

  • Master on both surfaces

American player Karch Kiraly showed he could play on any surface after winning volleyball gold in 1984 and 1988, and then being victorious in 1996 at Atlanta with Beach Volleyball.

  • Local hopefuls

Expect the unexpected. That’s what Team GB are hoping for, as on paper at least they don’t stand a chance. Britain’s highest ranked pair are Zara Dampney and Shauna Mullin, who are in 37th position in the worldwide standings.

Steve Grotowski and Gregg Weaver represent the best chance for Team GB on the men’s side.

And finally…

Look out for: Barack Obama.

John F Kennedy once attended a beach volleyball game. Why shouldn’t another American President do the same?

Not to be confused with: a jolly down at the beach – this is a serious, Olympic sport…

Useless but informative fact: for a men’s game the net is raised to 2.43m, but it is only at 2.24m in women’s matches

Beach volleyball in two words: power, precision

Beach Volleyball is to be held between Saturday 28 July and Thursday 9 August.

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Farewell Fabio Capello

So Fabio Capello decides to walk away from his multi-million pound deal as the head of English football.

Not many people expected that, but arguably his departure has not come totally out of the blue. There were hints of it over the weekend when Capello expressed his dissatisfaction over the way in which the FA stripped John Terry of the England captaincy.

The Chelsea captain is due to go to court over allegations he made racist remarks during a league match against QPR, and the FA felt it unwise that he should continue as the leader of the national team. However, there was no genuine belief that Capello would walk away from his six million pound-a-year, before this summer’s European Championships.

The fact he has though has left the state of the national team in disarray. This is hardly ideal preparation for the tournament. No manager, no captain, little idea of tactics, under-performing players, the list goes on. Despite all this, Capello’s decision to depart has prompted in some quarters a cautious air of optimism.

It’s now an opportunity to start afresh and the pressure’s now off for Euro 2012. There’s really nothing to lose; no-one was realistically expecting much and even more so now.

Will this spur some of the players on?

Harry Redknapp, who was acquitted from court earlier today, is already the strong favourite to take over, although his position at Spurs may complicate matters. Others names being banded around include Guus Hiddink, Roy Hodgson, even Jose Mourinho. There will surely be no shortage of takers for ‘the impossible job’. Expect the rumour-mill to be in full swing over the next few days.

Fabio leaves a legacy of being the most successful England manager – statistically at least – since Sir Alf Ramsey, winning 67% of games where he was the boss. But unfortunately for him, this was not good enough in the eyes of many people.

The hunt for the new manager starts once again, as English football looks for a swift resolution to a somewhat unexpected crisis.

London 2012 Guide to…Basketball

  • Peach Baskets

Basketball was invented in 1891, when there were peach baskets instead of nets at either end. This also meant that the ball had to be retrieved each time a player threw it in.

However, to speed things up, a hole was made in the bottom of the basket, which enabled the ball to be pushed out. This was still too slow though, so in 1906, the baskets were finally ditched and metal hoops were introduced. 30 years later and basketball was to make its first official appearance at the Olympic Games, which were held in Berlin.

  • American Domination

So, the men’s basketball competition kicked off in 1936, and they soon started to dominate the game. In fact, they dominated so much that they were to go undefeated during their next 62 Olympic matches, when they finally came up short against the USSR in 1972.

On the women’s side, the Soviet Union controlled the sport following its introduction in 1976. However, between 1984 and 2008 the American team won gold in every Games, aside from one.

  • How the game works

A game is split into four, 10-minute periods, and points are essentially awarded depending on the distance you throw the ball from. Each country will bring a squad of 12 players, but only five are allowed on the court in any one time.

  • Basketball in London

Nearly 300 players will descend on London this summer in the search for Olympic basketball gold. 12 men’s and 12 women’s teams will be divided into two groups, where they will play each other. The top four sides from each group will then progress to the next stage, which adopts a knock-out format.

The Basketball Arena in the Olympic Park will play host to all of the preliminary games and the women’s quarter-final matches. The remaining games – the men’s quarter finals along with all the semi-finals and medal games – will be held at the North Greenwich Arena (aka the O2).

  • Local Hopefuls

Chicago Bulls’ Luol Deng has caught the eye in the NBA, while two players who play in Spain – Joel Freeland and Rob Archiebald will want to help Team GB get as far as possible.

And finally…

Look out for: Yao Ming.

Although he’s now retired, the former Chinese player may well be wandering around to see how his country get on. And at 7 ft 6 in, he should stand out from others.

Not to be confused with: handball, or peach baskets (see above).

Useless but informative fact: 300 basketballs have been set aside for use in London. That’s nearly one per player (288).

Basketball in two words: slam dunk (when a player jumps in the air and forces the ball downwards into the net.

The Olympics Basketball competitions will be taking place between Saturday 28 July and Sunday 12 August.