It’s a an event that the rest of the world notices every four years. Much attention is particularly focused on women’s Olympic beach volleyball, including what they wear or more specifically what they don’t wear. While the standard court volleyball outfit is a shirt and shorts, in this sandy version it turns into sporty bikinis.
There is no rule that teams have to dress this way. On Sunday, the Egyptian squad wore body suits with pants, long sleeve shirts, and hijabs, as reported by the National Post. It was their first international competition outside of Africa.
For Doaa Elgohbashy, one of the volleyballers on the Egyptian team, she is proud to be able to perform at the highest level of the sport. She’s glad the new dress code regulations were put into place. On wearing a hijab and an outfit covering her whole body, Elgohbashy shrugs it off.
“I have worn the hijab for 10 years. It doesn’t keep me away from the things I love to do, and beach volleyball is one of them,” she said, as reported by the Toronto Star.
The rules for the sport’s outfits have changed since beach volleyball was first brought to the Olympics in 1996 as an official event. Prior to 2012, women could wear a one-piece bathing suit, or a bikini with a side width of no more than 7cm.
Since 2012 there are three choices. Bikinis, shorts with sleeved or sleeveless top, or a full body suit as determined by the International Volleyball Federation. The increased options give players from more conservative backgrounds and customs a chance to compete in the Summer Games.
Federation spokesperson Richard Baker has said the move was made to allow more people to play volleyball competitively.
The optional changes in dress codes seem to have worked, as there were 169 countries competing to qualify for 2016, which was up from 143 in 2012, according to the Daily Mail.
Some people have been critical of the changes. Others say it highlights diversity and openness in the sport.
Beach volleyball has been somewhat controversial since its Olympic debut. Critics have said the skimpy outfits are unnecessary and promotes sex instead of the competitive aspects of the sport.
It has become a mainstream Olympic event 20 years later. Although people still talk about the beach attire, the athleticism of the players have been increasingly highlighted. Being mobile in sandy conditions with extreme heat and humidity is challenging. It’s also a two-on-two game where athletes need to be well rounded with speed, agility, and power.
The atmosphere of Brazil with its beach culture is a particularly good fit for a sport like beach volleyball. One of the aspects that make this year’s tournament unique is that the event is taking place on an actual sandy beach, the famous Copacabana Beach. Most past Olympic venues have not been near any beaches and had to truck in loads of sand to a central location. Rio 2016 has a much more natural feel to it.
Beach volleyball games have been scheduled from early morning until past midnight. The scheduling of late evening games are unique to these Games.
However attendance at some beach volleyball events have reportedly been less than full, along with other venues. The Games in Brazil have been plagued by various controversies such as the Zika virus, a difficult economy, high crime rates, and a political crisis. So far though, its has been running relatively smoothly.
There are 24 two-person teams from each gender competing in beach volleyball in Rio. There are a series of qualifying competitions to decide which countries would be represented. Both the Men’s and women’s teams from Brazil are considered favorites to win in a sport that is extremely popular in the host country.
[AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez]