Volleyball: Women furious at `bare flesh' rule

L!VE TV would love it. The notorious purveyors of Topless Darts, Painted Ladies and Big City Tips should be in Japan this week, where women's teams competing in the World Championships in Tokuyama have been told that in the interests of the sport they must flash more flesh.

The naked truth is that beach volleyball, largely performed in states of near-undress by part-time models, has cast its dowdier relative in an unfavourable light, and the authorities have introduced several measures to make the traditional six-a-side version more attractive to punters.

Brightly coloured balls are among the new measures, but the most controversial of the new ideas is the stipulation that the women must wear shorts only half as long as the men. The shorter shorts should be "tight in waist and length" and "cut in an upward angle towards the top of the leg".

The new rules also "encourage", without ordering, women to wear a one- piece swimsuit-style outfit rather than the traditional shorts and top. Rumours that lap-dancing is to be introduced between sets are thought to be unfounded.

Not surprisingly, the brave semi-nude world met with little approval from the teams. "Soon only models will be allowed on the volleyball court." said one South American player. A weekly magazine took up the theme with a photo-spread of a Japanese player-turned-model, under the headline "semi-nude volleyball attack."

Cuba proved themselves a game outfit when they began the defence of their title yesterday sporting the "swimsuit" gear. Slipping into something more comfortable seemed to work as they sped to a straight-sets win over the United States. Peru were similarly uninhibited, but went down in straight sets to Japan. Clearly, the clothes do not maketh the woman.

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