Rule one: get the clothes right, says Alister Morgan
The 1996 Olympic Games left us with many memorable images: triumphant victory, heartbreaking defeat - and of course, Beach Volleyball. Never before, in the field of sporting conflict, have so many bikinis been watched by so many, on so few.

Daley Thompson recently revealed that, in his next life, he wants to return as a Beach Volleyball player. Other individuals hoping to try their hand should not have to wait as long, as the world's fastest growing sport arrives in London next week.

The beach reaches Covent Garden in London next weekend; 170 tons of sand are being imported from Tarmac, Littlehampton, to create an outdoor court in the East Piazza. Measuring 14 x 22 metres, the court will boast a sand depth of 30cms, a full PA system, floodlights, and all the trappings of international competition.

Sixteen professional players from around the globe will play in a knock out event for a purse of pounds 5,000. Members of the public can join in the beach party as the professionals offer coaching tips on the basics.

Lesson one, it seems, is hit the shops. After all, it's not how you play the game that counts, it's how you look while you're playing it. Less is definitely more (naturally, participation should never hinder an even tan) but your few chosen garments should naturally carry the right labels: O'Neill, Champion and Mambo. And refusal to wear designer wraparound sunglasses, or at least one item of dayglo beachwear, definitely constitutes a major fashion faux pas.

Contrary to popular belief, Beach Volleyball can be enjoyed without the appearance of a single bikini. The desired "beach look" is dominated by surfwear: colourful and hard wearing shorts, sweats, T-shirts and wraps.

The top designs are inspired by the early days of surfing from the early Sixties. It's a "retro" look that has been updated for the Nineties and adapted for vigorous volleyball activity.

Design company O'Neill have been clothing surfers and like-minded beach bums for years and have seized enthusiastically upon this new gap in the market. They are now at the forefront of bringing the beach look in to the cities. One of their numerous new lines is called "Surf Babes": sporty and sexy skirts, dresses, shorts and accessories that Pamela Anderson could be proud of. But fear not: if she's not top of your list of role models, there are plenty more low-key alternatives.

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