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DAY 8: Who Needs Water? Just Add Sand
August 11, 1996
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.
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August 11, 1996

Day 8: Who Needs Water? Just Add Sand

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.

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