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.