The sport has tons of fans, but is it for the right reasons?
I was at Horse Guards Parade last night to watch the women’s beach volleyball quarter finals. It’s a great sport: back and forth they go — sets and spikes, digs and kills — most games have pretty tight scores too.
But there is one problem: I’m not sure the vast majority of the fans in the stands even care about the score.
Between trying to set the stadium record for how many times the Mexican wave could go around (the HGP record is 26 apparently), doing the “slow clap” and watching the dance team do the conga, there’s not much time left to watch the action on the court and cheer for the athletes.
Actually, that’s wrong – the fans do cheer them on. Last night’s first match featured the United States playing the Czech Republic. The Czechs were introduced first to a mild applause, followed by the Americans who had the crowd in a frenzy. “U.S.A.!! U.S.A.!!”
Why? In the cool night air (the match was played at 10 p.m. in London), the Czechs wore full spandex outfits. Hey, it wasn’t exactly beach weather, so it made sense. The Americans? They went with bikini bottoms.
U.S.A. faced the Czech Republic in the quarter finals
So half the audience chanted U.S.A. while the other half burst out laughing at their joke. I was perplexed. Last thing I heard, the English don’t exactly love Americans, do they? Hugh Grant taught me that much in Love Actually.
Yet here we were, surrounded by Brits cheering on the Americans because they were wearing less.
Later, the dance team sent out its three male members to start off a routine. The audience booed heartily. Confused again, I turned to the guy next to me, “Why are they booing?”
“It’s just the guys!” he replied.
The Dutch volleyball team warms up. (It’s the dance team)
Right. Admittedly, I was slow on the uptake, but WTF? The 11 girls joined them a moment later and were met by thunderous applause by the way — all part of the choreographer’s ruse to elicit such a reaction.
I get it – whoever’s in charge of the sport (the Federation Internationale de Volleyball) is trying to grow its product. They have to get fans into the stadiums somehow, and I won’t disagree that the ladies make nice eye candy – but are people there for the right reason?
If most of the audience is watching a sport to check out the girls’ bodies, are they even volleyball fans?
There were five guys sitting two rows behind me, drunk as hell, hollering for the Americans. Something tells me they’d take a one-sided two-setter with girls in bikinis rather than a riveting three-setter between two covered-up teams any day.
Do bikinis fill up the stands? Absolutely. But there are other places men can go to watch women take off their clothes. Horse Guards Parade — the spot where Buckingham Palace guards usually perform their elaborate shift change — and the Olympic Games — the pinnacle of world sports — should have higher standards.