Olympic diary: Drug testing needed for hyperactive beach volleyball crowd
21:30 GMT, 29 July 2012
What the sport of beach volleyball needs to introduce if it wants credibility is a vigorous programme of drug testing. Not for the competitors, but for everyone else in the stadium.
I went along to the magnificent Horse Guards’ Parade location half expecting the audience to be dotted with potential candidates for the sex offenders’ register, wearing bottle- bottom glasses and with anoraks on their laps.
Instead, I found a wild-eyed crowd behaving as if they had simultaneously overdosed on E-numbers, caffeine, anti-depressants, beer and more beer.
Spectacle: Dancers perform in the stands during a beach volleyball match
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There is no doubt, if you want noisy, almost inexplicable levels of happy-clappy glee from a paying public then this is the place to be. When the British teams were on court this weekend, the place was a permanent Mexican wave. At times it made darts night at Alexandra Palace look serene.
But beach volleyball should really be classified as an endurance event, since the main challenge is to endure the endless SHOUTING from the stadium announcers.
Even when a point is being played the people on the public address seem to regard this as an unwelcome interruption in the true business of the day —which is listening to them yell at eardrum bursting volume.
The male announcer bellows: ‘LONDON! ARE YOU READY’
Announcer: ‘I CAN’T HEAR YOU! LONDON, ARRRRE YOOO READY’
This happens approximately every minute, so I assume the announcer is only unable to hear because he is deaf from his own shouting. But I am certainly ‘ready’. Ready to rip the PA man’s larynx out with my bare hands and feed it to the swans on the nearby Serpentine.
Incredibly, the female co-announcer is worse. Between points someone called ‘Charlie’ shrieks about ‘TEEEM GEEE BEEE’ with a dead-eyed smile that suggests an inner loathing, before trying to coerce the crowd to start a conga. But they are far too busy doing their endless Mexican Wave.
With the Benny Hill theme playing and young dancers writhing up on the sidelines, the whole beach scene resembles a nightmare spin off of ‘Take Me Out’ on ITV2. And when the PA man encourages the crowd to ‘Get the clap going’, I wondered if Paddy McGuinness had missed his true vocation.
But rather than storm the commentary
booth and beat the announcers to death, the crowd buy into this,
possibly because they know it will be the only time they will experience
the ‘sport’, or because they are all drugged up on Nurofen. Either way,
they cheer absolutely everything.
Best of British: Zara Dampney (left) and Shauna Mullin got the host nation off to a good start
Announcer: ‘Let’s hear it for THE FIRST OFFICIAL!’
Announcer: ‘Here come the GUYS THAT RAKE THE SAND!’
Announcer: ‘LET’S HEAR IT FOR THE RAKE!’
The game itself doesn’t need the forced ‘atmosphere’. Although it remains ludicrous that this is an Olympic sport rather than some Californian holiday activity, beach volleyball can be entertaining.
The men’s game is more athletic and competitive than the women’s. And although the Team GB — sorry, TEEEM GEEE BEEE! — duo of John Garcia Thompson and Steve Grotowski lost to Canada, the din was such it was almost possible to ignore the fact that Britain’s men had just been defeated at a beach sport by a nation that mostly consists of glacial ice sheets.
They were even times in the first set when GB looked like they had a shout. It was just never as loud as the announcer’s.
The men are rarely mentioned because the women wear bikinis and that’s all anyone appears to care about. I might find that exciting, too. But not right now. I’m afraid I have a headache.
LYCRA LADS' NEW RECRUIT
Mark Cavendish might have failed to deliver gold on Saturday, but Lizzie Armitstead brought home silver 24 hours later to ensure the country’s love affair with two-wheels will continue to grow.
Some estimates claim the number of people cycling in London is up by 150 per cent since 2002. But is the host city of the 2012 Games genuinely ‘cycle friendly’
The best way to find out was to climb on a ‘Boris Bike’ and ride from east London to the road race
finish on The Mall. So I pulled on some unnervingly tight cycling shorts, a Team GB shirt and a
cycle helmet. Improved aerodynamics boost speed, which is why you never see a hairy Formula One car, but I drew the line at shaving my legs to reduce wind resistance like the professionals.
Contrasting fortunes: Mark Cavendish was out of luck (above) but Lizzie Armitstead won silver (below)
I can only assume this body hair explains why I was unbelievably slow. Or it could have been the
Boris bike, a brilliant innovation that you can hire for 1 a day from docking stations all over
the capital. But to ensure the contraptions are never stolen, they have been made entirely of lead and weigh more than a steam locomotive.
Inconveniently, there are no bike docking stations near the Olympic Stadium. Probably because the bank that sponsors the scheme are not part of the Olympic ‘family’.
I rode in from nearby Victoria Park instead, taking in the sights, carbon monoxide, choking black diesel fumes and dodging vans when a bus wasn’t inches from my rear mudguard.
On the way, I was pleased to note New Cavendish Street has a cycle lane and a specialist shop. And I can confirm London is getting better for bikes. It truly is a cycling city when the centre of the city is closed off entirely for the Olympics.
My five-inch replica of the Big Ben clock tower makes it through the scanners. This pointy souvenir could be used to poke politicians out of glad-handing photographs with any British medal winner.
Long wait: The media queue to get through security at the Olympics
Beach volleyball players say squirrels are causing problems by burying acorns in the sand at Horse Guards Parade. They should give thanks they aren’t playing on an actual beach near London. The dogs bury far worse at Southend. Then they’d have a real problem.