While spectator turnout has been a problem at this year’s Olympics, beach volleyball has held its own as an exciting and all-around fun sport.
Much has been made about the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. Critics have claimed that in a city with rampant disease, crime, poverty, and political corruption, hosting the games was a futile effort. Sooner or later, before the Olympics would even kick off, the Brazilians would find a way to ensure that the 2016 Olympics were a total failure.
Lost by the countless sports pundits and political analysts was the fact that Rio de Janeiro possesses some of the most beautiful scenery in the world. Nestled on Guanabara Bay, the Sugar Loaf Mountains, made famous by Cristo Redentor, mark the entrance to Rio.
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In a city with endless history, boundless culture, and a soccer craze bordering on religious, only one event seemed to capture the Brazilian spirit of sand, sun, and fun that still permeates throughout a nation described on 60 minutes by Brazilian author Eduardo Bueno as “not a serious country” due to its laid-back nature.
If Vienna is the spiritual home of classical music, Rio de Janeiro is the spiritual home of beach volleyball. Just look at the IOC’s official Olympic website. Rio is officially referred to as beach volleyball’s spiritual home. While simplistic in its appearance, beach volleyball is a reminder of what Rio is all about. Sun, sand, and fun.
Location, location, location. When it comes to views from the stands, none can surpass the open stadium that is Copacabana Arena. The temporary mix of bleachers and audio equipment that make up the arena lie on the famed Copacabana Beach. The 12,000 person stadium plays out like one raucous party. Light shows and loud music play at a pregame backed by the stunning scenery.
NBC OlympicTalk (@NBCOlympicTalk) July 27, 2016
In an attempt to maximize viewership from the U.S., much of the prime competition does not begin until 11 p.m. local time.
When asked why he came, local Brazilian Sérgio Soares had these words:
“Brazil isn’t playing tonight, so I’m mostly here for the party,” grinned professional soldier Sergio Soares, 33, as he walked into the arena carrying a beer. “And it’s a very good party!” he said above speakers blasting hits by Brazilian star Michel Telo, Cuban-American rapper Pitbull, and American pop star Taylor Swift, “(Alexandra Ulmar, Reuters).
East Vs. West
On the women’s side of the bracket, Germany vs. Egypt was not a particularly exciting match. In fact the the German duo of Laura Ludwig and Kira Walkenhorst soundly beat team Egypt in a two-set sweep. But the game still captured the world’s attention for the difference in attire worn by each side. While the Germans chose to sport the typical sport-bikini, a popular choice among participants, the Egyptian team of Nada Meawad and Doaa Elghobashy had more modest attire that included hijabs, emblematic of the Islamic faith.
A beautiful scene from Germany vs Egypt Women’s beach volleyball match. https://t.co/CRhgvQ9kYM— Global BC (@GlobalBC) August 11, 2016
The fact that Egypt, a majority Muslim nation, could even allow women to compete in a sport known for its revealing attire is directly linked to the International Volleyball Federation’s loosening of uniform standards. As a result, 169 countries were involved in the qualifying process for Rio as opposed to the 143 for London four years ago.
The contest between east and west, conservative and liberal, was a reminder of how vastly different two societies can be.
The Host Country Actually Won
So recall that Copacabana Arena has basically been a party complete with music, alcohol, pretty girls, and beautiful scenery. Asking for anything more would be greedy. How about a Brazilian gold medal?
Brazil has 18 medals and counting. In 2012, that count after all was said and done stood at just 22. It’s safe to say that while Brazil is not admittedly inept at winning Olympic medals, for a nation of 200 million, medals come at a premium. When they’re gold, it’s terms for celebration.
After a two-set sweep of the Italians, the Brazilian team of Alison Cerutti and Bruno Schmidt stood victors and gold medal champions.
Beach volleyball was a reminder to not just Brazilians but people all over the world that Brazil is still capable of living life, having fun, and most importantly, having pride in a country reeling from countless issues. While many Olympic competitions featured few spectators, Copacabana Arena captured why Rio is the spiritual home of beach volleyball and perhaps why Brazil is the “spiritual home” of having fun.
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- Sydney, 2000
- Seoul, 1988
- Moscow, 1980
- Atlanta, 1996