Whilst a New Yorker called William G. Morgan invented the indoor game in 1895, beach volleyball was first played in California, its ‘spiritual home’ in the 1920’s. In 1920, new areas were built on the beach in Santa Marta, California, specifically for public enjoyment. It was here that the seeds for beach volleyball were planted. The game quickly took off, and 11 beach volleyball clubs opened up in the area in 1922. Club competitions were held in 1924, and these were the first beach volleyball tournaments to take place anywhere in the world.
Over the decades the sport spread around the globe, firstly to Europe, then to South America. At the professional level however, the sport was a non event until the mid 1980’s, when there was a sudden explosion in the popularity of beach volleyball.
The key date for the sport is July 1996, when the sport became an official Olympic sport for the very first time (it was a demonstration event in 1992 in Barcelona). As could be seen on the volleyball scoreboards, Americans won the gold in all events. The Atlanta games became a showcase for the best players in the world, and the stadium was packed for all of the games.
It was somewhat surprising that the IOC agreed to make beach volleyball an Olympic sport. By making beach volleyball an Olympic sport, the IOC also allowed cheerleaders and loud music at the Olympics.
Some critics have suggesting that the sport is not suited to an event such as the Olympics, with the game played by fit, young women in their swimming costumes. Because of this, a number of Islamic countries have chosen not to embrace the sport.
It seems to me, however, that beach volleyball is no different in this respect to many more long standing Olympic sports. A good example of this is the women’s high jump and pole vault. Sexy or not, these women are highly trained and extremely talented athletes.
The gold medal game in the recent Olympics in China was very entertaining. It was the first time the US and China teams had clashed swords in a gold-medal match in beach volleyball. The Americans, who were at that time unbeaten for an incredible 107 matches, took the victory, with the volleyball scoreboards showing 21-18, 21-18.
The pace of beach volleyball is better in comparison to indoor volleyball. The nature of the game, in which players constantly have to dive in order to reach the ball, makes it much more suited to being played on soft and rather than hard wood. Beach volleyball has certainly upstaged its older brother, and year on year it is gaining more fans across the world. Without doubt it is a glamorous and fun sport, both to play and to watch.
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