Beach Volleyball at Bondi, Paddington Market
Let the games begin! An early start for the day, and you could almost taste the atmosphere. As we left the flat, we could hear the PA system from the beach volleyball stadium as the MCs warmed up for the day. The weather wasn't looking like it was warming up for the occasion though. Clouds covered the sky, so I wore some warm clothing.
As we walked the walk we'd undertaken many times before, something was different. Where we would normally look at to sea, obscuring the view along Campbell Parade were loads of coaches, and there were definitely more people strolling along the pavements, all headed for the stadium and the first round of games (women's eliminations). The stadium had been the cause for some protests prior to the games. Local residents didn't want it there - how dare some of their beach be taken away from them like this? There were threats of disruption before the games and during, but neither came to fruition. It got built, and the games were now on, no doubt about it.
Beach Volleyball at Bondi
We had a fairly good seat in the arena, but it's not massive so whatever seat, you're not far from the action. As the first game began - France v Germany - the sun appeared. And it stayed. And the wind dropped. From being overcast, the weather turned sweltering. I wondered how difficult it must be for the players diving around in the sand. I was amazed at how long they managed to keep rallies going, how they managed to pull back from the most amazing lobs from one side of the court and get to the other side of the court and do it all over again. It's difficult enough doing that on a solid surface.
The following matches were China v Germany, USA v Czech Republic and finally Australia v Italy. One of the funniest things, I thought, was the US team. They had porn-star names, although I'm sure that Misty May and Holly McPeak would not thank me for making that comparison. Still, they had nothing to worry about as they wiped the floor with the Czech team of Hudcova and Tobiasova, beating them 15-5 in just 22 minutes.
Beach Volleyball is a great Olympic event. The rules are easily picked up and the atmosphere is fantastic. A less stuffy event you could not imagine. In between bouts, the emcee would ran about the stadium, getting people to clap, join in dancing to the music, start Mexican waves and so on. It was a real party atmosphere and all in gorgeous sunshine. But the emcee had a more than capable understudy in the shape of 'La Bolla', a Brazilian man who evidently is something of a legend at these events. La Bolla means the ball and he and his trumpet-playing friend were certainly having a ball over on the opposite side of the stadium from us. Everytime we looked over, he and his crew were dancing, playing drums, wearing bright yellow curly wigs. I can't imagine this happening at an equestrian event. This is one sport that anyone can enjoy, and was perfect for Sydney.
With the morning session over, we caught a bus in to Paddington to take a look at the market there. The market is full of really arty little stalls, and is a great place to buy some unique presents. None of your stuffed kangaroos or hats-with-corks here. We bought an address book as a gift for Andy and Wendy which was made of half-inch thick slabs of wood (front and back) and looked like it could double up as a door stop/coffee table/weapon. Andy turned up and we went for a quick drink in a bar before Andy and one of his mates Neil left for another Olympic event - weight lifting at the Convention Centre in Darling Harbour.
And before we knew it, the sun was setting, bellies were rumbling and we found ourselves back at Bondi eating Italian. The scene was a lot different from earlier in the day. Everyone had gone home and Campbell Parade was starting to get back to normality ... well, normality for this place anyway.