Beach volleyball explained (Part one)
Arguably the most glamorous Olympic sport, beach volleyball has grown from being played by a handful of families in Santa Monica, California in the 1920s to now being the sport of choice for 800 million people throughout the world.
International tournaments have been played in the mountains, deserts, town squares and indoors. At London 2012 the tournament was staged at Horse Guards Parade, normally reserved for the Queen's birthday celebrations.
Beach volleyball has been as well-known for its competitors' attire as its elite sport status, but the outfit worn by Denise Lewis when she won heptathlon gold in 2000 was actually smaller than the costumes worn by female beach volleyballers.
Why is it good for you?
Beach volleyball is an excellent way to stay fit as exercise on sand can be up to 30% more strenuous than exercise on concrete surfaces.
It also helps improve balance, endurance and lower body muscle, with an hour's play burning approximately 526 calories.
As it is harder to gain height springing up from sand, beach volleyball relies more on technique than size and strength, making it an inclusive sport. Players also touch the ball more often than in indoor volleyball as there are just two players per team.
As beach volleyball is played in pairs, it is an excellent way to develop communication skills and learn to work effectively with other people. Clubs also offer a variety of social events beyond simply taking part in the sport.
Beach volleyball is an exciting, competitive team game that forces you to think tactically.
You can get a casual game going almost anywhere, be it the park, the beach, your back garden, university or even a swimming pool; all that is needed is a net and a ball.
For more regulated play, clubs throughout the United Kingdom run training sessions and leagues for players of all abilities.
Go Spike campaign is currently putting on taster sessions for the sport which anyone from complete beginners to experienced players can take part in. Visit the
Go Spike website
to find out when events are being run close to you.
Outside England you can visit the
Northern Ireland Volleyball,
Scottish Volleyball Association
websites to discover schemes available locally.
More on the British Volleyball website
Beach volleyball began to gain popularity throughout the United States during the 1930s and the first official two-man tournament took place in 1947.
Did you know?
About 5,000 tonnes of sand will be imported from a quarry in Surrey for the tournament, which takes place only five minutes from the Cabinet War Rooms where Winston Churchill orchestrated victory in the Second World War.
The first beach volleyball circuit involving hundreds of players and five California beaches began in the 1950s. Signs of the sport's continuing popularity came in the 1960s when Marilyn Monroe and John F Kennedy watched a tournament, and the Beatles even tried to play while in California.
Beach volleyball had to wait until 1996 to make its Olympic debut in the Atlanta Games, with the USA and Brazil dominating the medal count since its introduction.
The first international beach volleyball tour in 1990 involved three tournaments, 40 athletes and three countries. In 2011, the season consisted of 30 tournaments (14 for men, 16 for women), with total prize money of £4.8m.
It is not true that the women are obliged to wear bikinis - they have always been able to choose from a one or two-piece uniform, and
in London had the option of wearing shorts and sleeved tops.
More on the IOC website