In the US, it didn’t hurt that, in the year of the Olympic woman, ours brought home the gold. In fact, the silver, too: in the final, women’s beach volleyball-ers Kerry Walsh Jennings and Misty May-Treanor battled two other Americans, April Ross and Jennifer Kessy, who, in losing consecutive 21-16 sets to the champs, probably gave the ecstatic spectators a dress rehearsal for their gold medal run in Rio in 2016.
Beach volleyball isn’t new; the first two-man beach volleyball was played in Santa Monica in the 1930s and the first tournament to offer a prize was played in 1948 in L.A — the prize was a case of Pepsi. It’s not even really new to the Olympics, having been introduced in Atlanta
in 1996. So why the sudden craze?
The obvious reason was summed up by London mayor Boris Johnson in an op-ed for The Telegraph a couple of weeks ago “There are semi-naked women playing beach volleyball in the middle of Horse Guards Parade…They are glistening like wet otters … the whole thing is magnificent and bonkers.”
Yes, the decision to turn bikinis into uniforms no doubt had something to do with making beach volleyball the hottest ticket at London 2012. But this overlooks one very important fact: men play beach volleyball, too, and women like to watch guys in spandex, and ratings for men’s beach volleyball matches were also at an all-time high. If pictures of our best men’s team, Sean Rosenthal and Jake Gibb, aren’t going to be on Wheaties boxes next week, it’s simply because they didn’t
win, finally succumbing to Latvia in the semifinals.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on August 10, 2012