Beach volleyball isn't for everyone

Posted: Friday, September 22, 2000

BONDI BEACH - Rock music blares from the loud speakers and fans scream as if Mick Jagger just walked on stage, but the thousands who've packed the beachside stadium have come to see Olympic beach volleyball, not a concert.

This Olympic sport isn't for those hoping to study skill and form, like fans of equestrian events or archery. Beach volleyball isn't for weak or timid - it's a sport for the die-hard partygoers who want a medal ceremony with their dancing and screaming.

"Nothing compares to this," said New York resident Nancy Kamlet, leaving the 10,400-seat stadium. "Everyone is dancing to the music and having a good time. It really set the mood for the day."

In the months before the Olympics began, it wasn't all fun and games around Bondi Beach, one of Australia's most popular cultural beaches. The local residents weren't too keen on the huge stadium being built on one of Sydney's most beautiful spots.

Some have dubbed it the "sandcastle," while others use names not fit for print. But now that the games have begun, the music has started and the tourists have flocked, locals simply roll their eyes when asked about the controversy. It seems they've tired of the eyesore and decided to roll with the changes.

"I haven't really seen what the problem has been," said Sylvia Boevink, of Queensland, New South Whales. She's visited the beach for as long as she can remember. "They'll pull it down in the end."

Boevink said Australians are known to complain, and thinks the stadium has brought more visitors to the area who might otherwise stay in Olympic Park, about 30 minutes away.

"This is a more casual atmosphere here than over in Olympic Park," she said. "This beach is really what we are all about. This is the feel of the area here."

Thousands of tourists seem to agree. Lines for shuttle service back to the city span almost the length of Bondi Beach, a tiny beach that looks more like a large cove. Outdoor cafes are packed with fans draped in national flags. Souvenir stores are teeming with shoppers grabbing the standard stuffed kangaroos, koalas and Olympic T-shirts.

"The beach is such a beautiful place and you can just feel the energy from the stadium," said Kristin Tucker-Mixon, of Chapel Hill, N.C. She and her father didn't have tickets to the volleyball game, but came to the beach to check out the atmosphere they'd heard so much about from others in their hotel.

The two had also visited Olympic Park, but found the attitude of those at Bondi Beach more favorable.

"In Olympic Park you are just packed in there like a bunch of sheep just moving from venue to venue," said Roger Tucker, traveling from outside Chicago to his first Olympic games. "The area down here is just a nice change of pace."

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