Bondi beach prepares for volleyball war
Letter From Sydney
Monday 03 April 2000
A late summer's day at Bondi Beach. Two Chinese women wearing cardboard sun visors are seated on a bench, surveying the golden sweep of sand. A bronzed couple jog past, moving in precise synchrony. On the promenade, outside the Surf Life Savers Club, a roller-skater executes an intricate turn. Out at sea, surfers bob like penguins, patiently awaiting the perfect wave.
A beguiling scene, but not for much longer. Next month work starts on a 10,000-seat stadium that will be the beach volleyball venue for the Sydney Olympic Games. The temporary stadium will occupy one-third of Australia's most famous stretch of sand, splitting the beach in two and restricting public access to the promenade, the adjoining park and the listed bathing pavilion.
You mess with icons at your peril, as the Olympic Co-ordination Authority, which is responsible for construction projects, is discovering. As final plans for the contentious stadium were released last week, Bondi residents - fiercely possessive of their beach - threatened to lie down in front of bulldozers to prevent work from going ahead. The OCA said it would respond by calling in police.
The battle lines are thus drawn for a bitter confrontation that could see television images beamed around the world of demonstrators being hauled away by burly men in uniform: the type of publicity that beleaguered Olympics organisers could do without, five months before the Games begin in September.
The people of Bondi are unrepentant. "The stadium will be a dreadful eyesore, and it will detract from the entire quality of life in the area," said Lenny Kovner, one of the protesters.
Mr Kovner claims to have a list of 860 "Bondi Warriors" who are prepared to resort to direct action. "They are not green-haired ferals with studs through their noses," he said. "They are respectable family people, businessmen, mothers, even a couple of Holocaust survivors."
The mix reflects Bondi's egalitarian ethos. The beach is used all day, 365 days of the year - by joggers and cyclists who appear at first light, by sun worshippers, by elderly folk taking an evening constitutional. On late afternoons in summer, the flat, wide sands fill up with factory and office workers. There is a sense that the beach belongs to everyone, and so the notion of limited access is anathema to locals.
Waverley Council, which manages the beach, is opposed to the £5m stadium, which will comprise two 50ft-high grandstands, two competition courts and five warm-up and training courts. But it claims that it has no legal grounds to veto it.
The council signed an agreement with the OCA after negotiating a compensation package that includes refurbishment of the 1920s pavilion, used as a community centre. The deal prompted one protester to tell the mayor, Paul Pearce: "Judas sold out for 30 pieces of silver, but you have sold out for a paint job and a lift."
Had the stadium been destined for a more traditional sport, Bondi residents might have felt better disposed towards it. They share the widely held belief that the appeal of beach volleyball, which made its Olympic debut at Atlanta in 1996, lies in the spectacle of scantily clad women diving around on the sand rather than in any display of skill or athleticism.
That suspicion was reinforced when the FIVB, the International Volleyball Federation, decreed last year that the width of bikini bottoms worn by female players must not exceed six centimetres and that tops should be "tight fitting, with open upper chest".
Such are the sensitivities surrounding the stadium, which will be the last Olympic venue to be completed, that a beach volleyball test event due to take place at Bondi last September was cancelled.
Australian players, who include the Atlanta bronze medallists, Kerri Pottharst and Natalie Cook, will be not be permitted to train at Bondi until three weeks before the tournament starts. "There goes our home advantage," lamented Ben Jones, programme manager for the Australian team. "It's a bummer. We'll be like foreigners in our own country."
One burning question remains to be answered before September. Will Waverley Council remove the notices posted the length of the sea wall at Bondi which state, quite plainly, that "Ball games are strictlyprohibited"?
Actors star in Woody Allen's 'Magic in the Moonlight'
It scooped up an unprecedented 11 Academy Awards when it was first remade in 1959
Olympic diver has made his modelling debut for Adidas
...and the perfect time to visit them
Newcastle winger reveals he has testicular cancer - and is losing his trademark long hair as a result
Latest in Sport
Manchester United official team photo: Antonio Valencia and Anderson pull the funniest faces
Borussia Dortmund vs Arsenal: Five things we learnt, including Danny Welbeck must be more clinical and Hector Bellerin debut
Borussia Dortmund vs Arsenal player ratings: How did Ozil and Welbeck do in Germany?
Colombian women's cycling team kit that makes wearer appear naked is branded 'unacceptable' by UCI president
Liverpool 2 Ludogorets 1 player ratings
- 1 iPhone 6 review: bigger, thinner, faster, brighter - Apple proves you can make the best better
- 2 Sports Direct security guard allegedly banned Jewish schoolboys and told them: 'No Jews, no Jews'
- 3 Pakistani passenger power forces two politicians off plane
- 4 Say yes to 'no-poo': It's been three years since I stopped washing my hair
- 5 John Travolta addresses former pilot's gay romance allegations publicly for the first time: 'That was the lowest I'd ever felt'
Daniele Watts: Django Unchained actress detained by Los Angeles police after being mistaken for a prostitute
Scottish independence referendum: A nation divided against itself
The political class is doing what Hitler couldn’t – destroying Britain
Scottish independence: Nationalist leader Jim Sillars threatens pro-union companies with 'day of reckoning' after independence
Scottish independence: Yes campaign feels the heat as Alex Salmond's NHS claims come under furious attack
Portuguese academic says British are 'filthy, violent and drunk'
£55000 - £60000 Per Annum + benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: IT Proj...
Negotiable: Randstad Education Bristol: English teachers for day to day cover,...
Negotiable: Randstad Education Sheffield: Year 6 Teacher RequiredThis teaching...
£30000 - £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: SharePoint Administrator - Bishop's ...