Beach Volleyball

Learn about this Summer Olympic sport

April 27, 2012

Brazil's Emanuel Rego blocks a shot from Georgia's Jorge Terceiro in the men's beach volleyball bronze medal match of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.

Beach volleyball is similar to indoor volleyball, which is also played at the Olympics. The main difference, of course, is that it is played on a sand court and each team has just two players. Beachgoers first started playing the spin-off sport in the early 1920s in Santa Monica, California. Soon after, the game that began as family fun in the sun turned into a competitive sport played across the world. Beach volleyball is still fairly new to the Olympics. It made its official debut as an Olympic sport at the 1996 Games in Atlanta, Georgia. Besides battling opponents, beach volleyball players must also fight the elements. Competitors have to move quickly in the sand and be ready for the strength of the sun and the wind.

Rules of the Game

Olympic beach volleyball is made up of a men's and a women's tournament. Each tournament consists of 24 teams. Each team has two players. The goal of the game is to hit the ball over the net so that it lands inside the opposing team's court. Each team is given three hits to return the ball to the other side of the net. Except on a serve, players can use their head, arm, hands or any other part of their body to bump the ball. But don't hit the ball twice in a row! That is against the rules.

Matches are played best two-out-of-three sets. The first two sets are played to 21 points. The third serves as a tiebreaker set, if necessary. Teams must win a set by at least two points. Points are scored in a variety of ways: when the ball touches the court in bounds; when a ball is hit out of bounds; or when a player makes an un-returnable spike, among others. At the 2012 London Games, beach volleyball will be played at Horse Guards Parade, just outside of the Prime Minister’s home on Downing Street. Sand will be brought in to create a temporary “beach.” 

Click here to read about boxing at the Olympic Games.

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