Just why is beach volleyball in the Olympics?

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The Independent Online

Now, look, this will probably be an unpopular piece - but can someone explain to me again why beach volleyball is in the Olympics?

The official version is that it was introduced as a trial sport and proved so popular that games organisers decided to make it a regular feature from 1996.

I'm sorry if this sounds like sporting snobbery but I just don't rate beach volleyball as a sport. It's a pastime, isn't it? You play it on the beach on holiday.

The cynic in me says that beach volleyball is simply there for the TV and for grown men to slobber over the sight of scantily clad women throwing themselves about in the sand. I mean, why don't they just go the whole kahuna and make the beach volleyballers play naked - because that's what this is about, really. I'm assuming no one watches the blokes. Women generally have more sense.

I know, I know, many of you will be saying things like: what about synchronised swimming or baseball or handball or even Greco-Roman wrestling? And it's true. There are some sports whose credentials you question in an Olympic context.

For me, the rule of thumb is that the sport shouldn't be in the Olympics if the world championship or a major tournament or tournaments are more prestigious. That lets out Olympic soccer and tennis then. Boring and inconsequential in the greater scheme of things.

Golf is trying to get into the Olympics. Forget it, guys, the majors are much better.

Beach volleyball, by my own nominated criterion, would make it as an Olympic sport as it does have a world championships and a thriving world scene. And at least we had the sight of a tense match between war-torn Georgia and Russia at the beach volleyball. Or did we? Georgia's two maidens, it turns out, actually hail from Brazil.

"We were not playing against the Georgian team today," sniffed one of the Russians, Natalia Uryadova, at a press conference afterwards. "'We were playing against the Brazilian team. If they are Georgian they would certainly have been influenced (by world events), but certainly they are not."

So I'm afraid I just can't take it seriously. What next? Beach cricket? Speed sandcastle building? Beach tennis? I've got it...beach bikini waxing. Contestants would be waxed - this would all be done in the best possible taste, of course, without TV being too intrusive. Then they would be judged on skin texture, shape and form after a catwalk parade. On sand, of course.

The final leg would be a practical application test. Contestants would have to run into the surf, waving their hands in the air, accompanied by Beach Boys' music, and we'd all see if their bikinis fell off in the waves. It'd rate through the roof, I tell you.

And that's what it's all about. If the money-hungry Olympics can get the networks to pay out megabucks, you get the feeling they'd sanction anything.

I'm not even going to start on synchronised swimming or, as a friend of mine has always called it, synchronised drowning. Before synchronised swimmers, family and friends start calling...I get it, I really do. It's demanding, no doubt, and clever. But is it a sport? If so, why isn't ballet an Olympic sport? Or ballroom dancing? Or those Irish people that dance without their hands.

It's a shame that TV has taken over to quite this extent. Sport gets lost in all this commercial ballyhoo.

At this rate, we'll get Britney bleedin' Spears kicking off a new Olympic event - Taxi Exiting. Underclothes are optional but the degree of difficulty is greater without.

This story was sourced from The New Zealand Herald