London 2012 Olympics – Beach Volleyball: is it really being played in London … or Portmeirion?

There was something rather odd about the London 2012 Olympics Beach Volleyball venue at Horseguards Parade last Friday:

Where am I?

There was a sort of country village feel about the place. Although seeing and hearing a Royal Guards brass band play before the match was an utter delight, it was certainly not something I was expecting to see at an Olympics event:

Is this really an Olympics venue, or a quaint village green?

Yes, the statues are very tall and not the brass band being very small

The slightly creepy Beach Volleyball statues inside the Horseguards Parade Olympics venue. The male one looks a bit like Barry Manilow, and the female one just looks bored

Far from being glamorous as one might expect, the whole venue had a controlled yet understated quaintness about it.

Some remembering our great war dead, and others remembering to buy a Twix before the match

A quaint little golf buggy doubling up as a taxi (now where have I seen that before?)

Parasols and marquees for those who want information … information … IN-FOR-MATION! Hang on a minute…

Friendly, compliant staff, eager to help, eager to please (but for what true purpose?), golf buggies for taxis, quaint ‘village’ stalls, quaint ‘village’ feel: this wasn’t London, this was the Village from 1960s TV series The Prisoner! Well, just as long as there weren’t any large, roaring weather balloons tearing around the place I guess I could live with being a number for the afternoon …

Good Lord, it’s true I am in THE Village! Down Rover!

In the safety of the court, not only was the atmosphere fantastic, but having a seat so high up in the stands I had a view of London that until this stand was built no one had ever had before … and will probably never have again in this lifetime. The views were simply breath-taking:

Horseguards Parade looking absolutely stunning surrounding the largest, albeit least private cat litter-tray in the UK

The London Eye and Shard trying to catch a glimpse of the Beach Volleyball matches over Horseguards Parade

Big Ben being all coy and hiding its face(s) from the sexy Beach Volleyball ladies

As I was being distracted by my surroundings, my fellow male spectators were being distracted by something else:

One woman is clearly not amused by her husband’s enthusiasm for the ‘Horseguards Parade Beach Volleyball Dancers’ (bottom right)

There were two matches played during the time I was there. One played by the men:

Norway v Latvia

… and one by the women:

Netherlands v Brazil (hello ladies!)

… and although both matches were rather enjoyable, only the players seemed to be taking the whole thing seriously. The fact that we couldn’t be further from a beach in London if we tried was probably a main factor in this, and it also didn’t help that the players first entered the court to the theme tune of Benny Hill!

As the ladies played desperately against each other to try and qualify to the next round, spectators just simply weren’t paying them any attention (well, not to their game-play anyway). People were singing and dancing in their seats, doing Mexican waves (I got bored after the seventh round, and simply waved my hand dismissively when it came my way after that) and Congas. All this was actively encouraged by the commentators.

Clearly not interested in the match, Prince William and Her Majesty the Queen lead the Conga between the stalls

Those poor Volleyball girls. This was like the twenty-first century equivalent to Elizabethan actors trying to perform Shakespeare at the Globe theatre whilst the inebriated, rowdy audiences in the stalls did everything but listen intently to the words of the Bard. Even the sand rakers were given more attention than the players as spectators gave them a round of applause between sets.

Simon Cowell is rumoured to be interested in signing The Rakers up after the Olympics

There was one mystery figure however that did seem to pay the Volleyball ladies the attention they deserved … and not just ogling them in they bikinis either. But, who was he?

Important enough to have a soldier by his side, who was the mystery man on the roof of Horseguards Parade? Too laid back to be the PM. Too smartly dressed to be Boris. Was it Lord Coe?

Although more like ‘Blackpool Pleasure Beach’  than Rio Carnival, the whole event was absolutely superb and I enjoyed it immensely. Being a born-n-bred Londoner (apologies, gushing prose coming up) the pride I feel for my hometown and for TeamGB at this moment in time (22 Gold medals and counting), to see the city looking so beautiful and at its best, simply overwhelms me and I have fallen in love with dear ol’ London town all over again. Someone pass me a hankie (and maybe a bucket for me dear reader).


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