British volleyball's future built on more than sand - Other events - Olympics - The Independent

British volleyball's future built on more than sand

Both the indoor and much-trivialised beach version of the sport can prosper after the Games

Horse Guards Parade

Beach volleyball is coming to a sandpit near you. Or at least it is if you live within the M25. Five thousand tons of sand that formed the main arena and practice courts at Horse Guards Parade are on their way to as many as 30 sites within London's perimeter artery. The sand was hewn from a quarry in Surrey and would have been going back there were it not for the quick thinking of British Volleyball president Richard Callicott, who agreed a deal to ship it out to new courts at a cost cheaper than the return fee.

Appropriately enough for a sport with coastal associations, beach volleyball and its sister sport are riding a wave of unprecedented popularity thanks to these Games. London, particularly the Horse Guards location, has added a level of stately exotica beyond even the scope of Bondi in Sydney. The beach is all well and good but what do you do when the tide is out. Fire up the barbie, buy another ice cream, stick of rock? No thanks. The game has moved on and with its clever positioning in the heart of one of the great cities this minority sport has been given a significant leg-up.

The previous afternoon David Cameron dropped by with his wife and kids, adding to the sense of euphoria projected by the British Federation, which estimates more than a million people will have attended both versions of the discipline in central London and Earls Court by the tournament's end. For a sport that did not have even have a British governing body when London won the Games, these are heady days. And when the next round of funding is decided in December it won't hurt to lean on Cameron for a testimonial.

Volleyball took £4m in funding from the last UK Sport divvy. It sounds plenty but the start-up costs swallowed most of it, leaving the elite athletes with grants of only £6,000 a year, a trifle compared to other elite programmes. Britain's top boxers, for example, might collect almost seven times that. "What we have to do next is convince UK Sport that this is a serious sport and should be recognised as such. It has taken cycling 12 years, and what a success they have had. Swimming has had 12 years. What we need is a consistent level of funding over a prolonged period like those other sports," Callicott said.

"Most of the £4m went on infrastructure. When London got the Games we had a home nation spot. We then had to convince the British Olympic Association that we could compete with credibility. We have done that. There was no structure. We had no funding. We became a federation only in 2005. We then had to appoint staff and coaches, find offices, identify players then pull it all together."

The case for volleyball is the same made by other marginal sports given a platform by the Games. Handball, performing to packed houses in the Copper Box, and water polo are easy-access disciplines that also have huge traction on the Continent and are keen for a greater share of the UK talent pool. What neither has is the obvious attraction of outdoor participation and beautifully athletic women in swimsuits to sell it.

The danger of trivialising beach volleyball in the trade for publicity is a risk Callicott is happy to take. "We picked up in the last five months three sponsors worth about £90k. I'm hoping that the raised profile through this Olympics, which already has greater viewing figures than Beijing, will get people to recognise that this is a genuine Olympic sport, worth investing in. It has no downside.

"We talk about player pathways and development. That just didn't exist. Now they do. We have more than 1,500 schools playing, youth clubs and national leagues, regional leagues and local leagues. The parodies projected by people that think they are funny are grossly insulting but if you rise to them you substantiate them. I take them with a sense of resignation. The cheap, sensationalism demonstrates that they don't really have a point to make and if they think this is trivial nonsense they can come and give it a go."

The British women won one of their three pool games; the men none. Without exception, the players arrived at volleyball's door anecdotally via an enthusiastic PE teacher or some other point man. The plan is to progress through the groups in Rio and win a medal in 2020. Performance shortfall did not appear to have a detrimental effect on the watching experience last night. Hold the tittering, please. Brazil's women edged China to claim bronze before the Americans did battle against each other for gold.

News
Paper trail: the wedding photograph found in the rubble after 9/11 – it took Elizabeth Keefe 13 years to find the people in it
newsWho are the people in this photo? It took Elizabeth Stringer Keefe 13 years to find out
Arts and Entertainment
Evil eye: Douglas Adams in 'mad genius' pose
booksNew biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Sport
FootballFull debuts don't come much more stylish than those on show here
News
i100
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Kim Kardashian drawn backlash over her sexy swimsuit selfie, called 'disgusting' and 'nasty'
fashionCritics say magazine only pays attention to fashion trends among rich, white women
Arts and Entertainment
TVShows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Arts and Entertainment
Hit the roof: hot-tub cinema east London
architectureFrom pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
Travel
travel
News
The ecological reconstruction of Ikrandraco avatar is shown in this illustration courtesy of Chuang Zhao. Scientists on September 11, 2014 announced the discovery of fossils in China of a type of flying reptile called a pterosaur that lived 120 millions years ago and so closely resembled those creatures from the 2009 film, Avatar that they named it after them.
SCIENCE
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Matisse: The Cut-Outs exhibition attracted 562,000 visitors to the Tate Modern from April to September
art
Life and Style
Models walk the runway at the Tom Ford show during London Fashion Week Spring Summer 2015
fashionLondon Fashion Week 2014
News
Kenny G
news
News
peopleThe black actress has claimed police mistook her for a prostitute when she kissed her white husband
Life and Style
techIndian model comes with cricket scores baked in
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week