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2016-08-17 11:35:00 CET

More than sports: The not-so-secret star of the Copacabana

With three Brazilian teams in the Final Four of men and women, the beach volleyball competition is coming to its climax.

The screen is tremendous. Just like the gigantic athlete who is standing in front of it, lifting one weight after the other. Besides him, a tiny, withy marathon runner is stretching his muscles. The two athletes, who are working in the athletes’ fitness center in the village of Barra couldn’t be more different, but something unites them. Like the handball and volleyball players and swimmers, they cannot stop staring at the big screen: it’s where Pedro/Evandro and Samoilovs/Smedins fight each other to reach the last 16 at the beach volleyball tournament

Most of the athletes can't stop watching beach volleyball when working in the fitness center in their village. Photocredit: Ninja PriesterjahnMost of the athletes can't stop watching beach volleyball when working in the fitness center in their village. Photocredit: Ninja Priesterjahn

USA Team watched Copacabana action

Beach volleyball is the most popular sport at the major event in Brazil. Besides volleyball is has the biggest number of ticket sales. When Kerri Walsh Jennings and April Ross played their quarterfinal, they had the most famous athletes cheering for them: The United States men's national basketball team came to Copacabana, just to watch beach volleyball. Lucky for them, they were allowed to use the athlete’s entrance, because the queue for the 12,000-capacity beach volleyball stadium is generally much longer than for other sports – even for basketball. The people, who cannot enter the stadium watch like the athletes in the fitness center in front of the numerous TVs in the streets. “When beach volleyball is on the screens, everyone stops. That is a situation we Germans just know from football,” says Julius Brink, who topped the podium in London 2012. “I think it is great that our sport is so much in the spotlight here in Brazil.”

The enthusiasm for beach volleyball is omnipresent. The megastore sells shirts with the different logos of the different forms of sports at the major event. Besides tennis, it’s the shirt of beach volleyball which has been sold out immediately in one shop. Another bellwether for the love of beach volleyball is the concession stand. The organizing committee had a nice idea: When buying a beer, the visitor can keep the yellow cup, which also has a logo of one sport on it. This leads to big cup collections of everyone, from decathlon to high diving. Getting a cup with beach volleyball has been virtually impossible since day four of the competition.

Beach volleyball is one of the most demanded sports at the Copacabana. Photocredit: Ninja PriesterjahnBeach volleyball is one of the most demanded sports at the Copacabana. Photocredit: Ninja Priesterjahn

Pride and fairness

But if they cannot get the cup they want, the Carioca is not frustrated. Anyway, the Brazilian people are so much more easy going than we Europeans. Sometimes, when going to the supermarket in a hurry, the slowness of it all tends to test the nerves but all in all this attitude to life leads more likely to relaxation.

When a Carioca raises his voice, there is a reason behind it. There was a funny scene at the train station in Barra da Tijuca: All the people who had left the arenas queued in a well-behaved manner in front of the doors, when a Russian couple tried to push in. The whole platform started to hoot and whistle. This barrage of catcalls came so surprisingly that the couple jumped back into the queue immediately.

Some athletes also got to know what it is like to be booed. When cheering for the Brazilians, the Cariocas can be a little mean. When Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena played at the Center Court they shouted during every service: “Uuuuh, Zika” as reference to the fears of the US-Americans concerning the zika-virus. Phil and Nick are now out of the competition, but the remaining teams will be facing strong headwinds when meeting the three Brazilian teams in the battle for a place on the podium at the most popular beach of the world. When you are at Copacabana, do not forget to queue in time, otherwise, you can just watch at the big screen.

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