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Capacity crowd attend beach volleyball

By Deborah Charles
August 17, 2004 13:13 IST
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At the beach volleyball, the 2004 Olympics is a sell-out, foot-stomping success.

Crowds poured into the 10,000-seat stadium on Monday night to cheer on Greece, enjoy the bikini-clad cheerleaders and revel in the beach party atmosphere.

Though Olympic ticket sales have lagged and many events have been sparsely attended in the opening days of the Athens Games, beach volleyball is again proving to be a huge draw.

China's Jia Tian (R) and Fei Wang (L) jubilate after winning the second round beach volleyball matchFrom the moment it debuted as a medal sport in Atlanta in 1996, beach volleyball has been one of the most popular spectator sports at the Olympics.

On Bondi Beach in 2000, it attracted the fifth largest television audience of the 28 sports.

In Athens, a "dance team" revs up the fans as do Greek- and English-speaking announcers who run out between sets to lead the clapping and singing.

The rock-and-roll music that blasts in after each point helps keep the atmosphere buzzing, as do the players who wave to the fans and urge them to make some noise.

"You'll never hear us say 'quiet please' at beach volleyball," yells the announcer as the dance team, dressed in shiny silver bikinis, run out on to the court during a time out.

"Come on, get up and clap your hands!"

When Greece's top women players Vassiliki Karadassiou and Efrosyni Sfyri forced a tie-break against Australia's Summer Lochowicz and Kerri Pottharst on Monday the crowd went mental.

Fans roared soccer songs and chanted "Hellas, Hellas" before the Greeks were edged out by the Australians in three sets.

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"Isn't it fantastic?" defending Olympic champion Pottharst said. "That's because it's so much fun.

"It's so athletic, you can see the players' emotions. I think by the time we get to the finals these stands will be rocking."

Ticket sales at the Games topped three million on Monday but television shots are showing half-empty stands in many venues.

Organisers, who had failed to reach their goal of selling about 65 percent of the total 5.2 million tickets by Games opening, had hoped that once the Olympics began interest and attendance would rise.

The 2000 Sydney Games, with almost double the total tickets available, were held mostly in front of capacity crowds.

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Deborah Charles
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