Beach balls and human rights

June 6, 2012

With 56 days to go to the Olympics, I’m already excited. Everybody is. My friend Simon is so excited that he and his family are leaving London the week before and only coming back when the games are over.

“Are you crazy?” I asked. “Where’s your Olympic spirit? Your patriotism? You’ll miss the two most exciting weeks of your lives.”

“Forget it,” he said. “We’re getting out while there’s still time. The traffic is going to be a thousand times more terrible… the pavements are going to be madness… and don’t even mention the Tube.”

The funny thing is, I don’t even like sport. The last person in my family to run anywhere was in Minsk in 1758 when an uncle on my father’s side famously ran for a taxi and dropped dead of a heart attack.

Yet I’ve got the hottest tickets in town – I’ve got six tickets for the women’s beach volley ball. The truth is that, at first, I thought I had the worst tickets in town. Beach volleyball? But when people heard what I had got, they told me that I had the Olympic tickets.

Beautiful tanned athletic women jumping up and down in tiny bikinis. “What’s not to like?” my friend Marshall said. He had a point. The Telegraph reported: “The government have bought 410 women’s beach volleyball tickets… as against only 256 athletics tickets.” Jonathan Stephens, a civil servant, insisted it was just a “coincidence”. The one event that met the requirements of civil servants “turned out to be beach volleyball”, he said – trying to keep a straight face.

But then came the shock news – the International Volleyball Federation had decided for the first time in history to allow women to wear shorts – very long shorts – and long-sleeved tops. A report said: “Players will now have the choice to wear less revealing uniforms as the sport’s governing body ‘seeks to respect countries’ cultural beliefs.

When it comes to supporting cultural beliefs, I’m second to no man – only not in women’s beach volleyball, and not now. Ever since it was introduced in 1996, this has been the only Olympic sport where maximum outfit size was stipulated. Bikini sides could be “no wider than 2.76 cm”. Now they can practically wear trousers. The sport will never recover.

“Don’t get stressed,” my friend Arnold said. “It’s only a game.”

“I don’t get stressed,” I shouted. “I delegate it. I give it to others. And I’m going to give it right now to the International Volleyball Federation! I’m going to officially protest. One spot of bad weather and they’ll be playing in overcoats. They’ll die of heat stroke. It’s an infringement of their human rights.”

Where are you, Amnesty, when we need you? Forget the flotillas on that other beach for five minutes and get down to the only beach that matters right now – beach volleyball on Horse Guards Parade.

Readers note: If anyone’s got a spare Opening Ceremony or 100 metres final ticket, contact me – and I’ll take you along to the women’s beach volleyball.