The ancient Greeks enjoyed loose-fitting clothes and comfortable
footwear--we know that from their urns. Also, living in a
Mediterranean climate and having lots of open-air venues, they
obviously liked their fun in the sun. So there doesn't seem to
be any question that they would have welcomed beach volleyball
to their Olympic movement. Product endorsements on the athletes'
visors might have given them pause, but otherwise this is
probably a sport they'd have wished they'd thought of.
As a matter of fact, beach volleyball might have been more
logically inaugurated in Athens than in Atlanta, which does not
have the benefit of, say, the Aegean Sea. It was all a little
unnatural-looking here, inasmuch as the 500 tons of sand for the
two courts had to be hauled in. Still, it was sunny enough, the
players were buffed and bronzed, and if you couldn't quite hear
the waves lapping at Manhattan Beach, there was plenty of
rock-and-roll and all the frozen margaritas you could drink.
In addition, it was a terrific competition. The U.S. women's
pairs were given a run for their sponsorship money by the
Brazilians, and intrigue abounded. The U.S. pair of Holly McPeak
and Nancy Reno--an on-again, off-again partnership--was
foundering again. Contributing to the usual friction, according
to reports, was McPeak's off-season breast enlargement, a
surprise that Reno, an avowed feminist, didn't appreciate. So
when the U.S. team of Linda Hanley and Barbra Fontana Harris
beat them to advance to the semifinals (where they lost to
Jackie Silva and Sandra Pires, turning the gold medal match into
an all-Brazilian affair), McPeak and Reno called it quits again.
On the men's side, AVP tour members Karch Kiraly and Kent
Steffes, whose refusal to play on the tour sponsored by the
sport's international governing body (FIVB) had forced them to
go through Olympic trials, were pitted in the preliminaries
against fellow Americans Sinjin Smith and Carl Henkel, who had
been given an automatic berth as top FIVB players. That this
interorganizational grudge match was a stirring game with a
close finish somewhat mollified Kiraly, who earlier had
questioned the other team's strength. "I was mistaken," said
Kiraly, whose team went on to win the gold. "They gave us all we
could handle and more."
No reason the Games couldn't have had this all along.
COLOR PHOTO: JIM GUND Kiraly (left) and Steffes had to dig deeper than expected to beat U.S. rivals Henkel and Smith in the preliminaries. [Karch Kiraly playing beach volleyball]
COLOR PHOTO: ROBERT BECKFrequent disharmony and failure to win a medal may have spiked the partnership of McPeak (right) and Reno for good. [Holly McPeak playing beach volleyball]COLOR PHOTO: RICHARD MACKSON Ireland's Michelle Smith won an eye-popping three golds--plus a bronze in the 200 fly (shown here)--then scoffed at drug rumors that followed in her wake.
COLOR PHOTO: WALTER IOOSS JR. With a final heave of 70'11", Randy Barnes shot from sixth place to first, beating U.S. teammate John Godina for the shot put gold. [Randy Barnes]
COLOR PHOTO: BOB MARTIN In the men's kayak singles slalom, Manuel Koehler of Austria made a run but, finishing 42nd out of 44, got nothing but wet. [Manuel Koehler kayaking]