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22 Jul, 2009 17:29

Beach volleyball event in Moscow dubbed a success

For the second year in a row Moscow hosted a leg of the Swatch beach volleyball tour.

For some of the millions of tourists who visit Russia every year, the attraction is the capital's history and heritage, while for others it is the city's vibrant nightlife. But since last year Moscow has had another draw for those from abroad: the Swatch beach volleyball world tour.

The game has come a long way since the first match was played on California's Pacific coast in 1915. Today 218 countries play beach volleyball officially, and an actual beach is no longer a prerequisite.

One example is the Russian capital, which hosted a Grand Slam for the second year in a row.

Especially for the tournament, the organizers arranged for 2,500 tons of sand to be delivered to Victory Park, making the event a must-see sight for Russian and foreign tourists.

“There’s been a great improvement both in the quantity and the quality of the audience,” said tournament director Ilya Volodarsky. “The emotions we saw in the stands are the same as at the European championships. Last year’s experience helped us a lot in organizing this year's event. Also, the players’ zones and press zones were much better designed this time.”

Beach volleyball, along with synchronized swimming and tennis, are widely considered to be among the world’s sexiest sports. This could help explain why organizers had no problem filling to capacity the more than 5,000 seats available at center court. The $600,000 in total prize money also ensured the participation of the world’s top beach volleyball talent.

The outdoor sport is always at the mercy of weather, making the event a gamble in Moscow. Soaring temperatures, however, played right into the participants' hands.

While Russia is one of the leading nations in indoor volleyball, the country's beach culture has yet to produce an outdoor champion. At the moment the sport is dominated by the likes of Brazil and Germany, with the US, the sport’s originators, not far behind. But the sport's popularity is evidently growing in Russia, and a place on the podium could be just around the corner.

“Russian girls played on their real level in this Grand Slam,” said Volodarsky. “We had two teams qualifying in their group. Today, this is quite enough for Russian women’s beach volleyball. The competition among men’s teams is very high. We had expected a better result from the Barsuk-Kholodinsky combo, but they both had injuries, using painkillers to get them through the game.”

There are four Grand Slam tournaments in the beach volleyball world tour. Before Moscow, the tour stopped in Switzerland, and the next two events will be held in France and then Austria.

The Russian stage turned out to be a real success for the second year in a row. So naturally the organizers and the fans will be looking forward to next season – hoping, no doubt, to see a Russian pair in the final.