Explained: Why do Olympic beach volleyball players wear bikinis? What are the rules?

Beach volleyball uniform 3
Beach volleyball uniform

Ever since its inception in the Olympics, beach volleyball has been one of the most popular sports at the Summer Games. The fast action and party environment give the sport a charisma only some can ignore. While the sport is an enthralling affair, it has gained much attention, not due to the game itself but the uniform.

Most of the women playing beach volleyball at the Olympics wear bikinis as their uniforms. And that’s not a problem for the players who believe that those who see the sport will remain fans. Such has been the fame of the female side of the sport, not many know that men’s beach volleyball is an Olympic event.

At the same time, some see the uniform as offending and a method of asserting a claim on their freedom restricting them to wear a certain type of outfit. While there has been a lot of speculations lately, what do the rules say?

What are the rules around beach volleyball uniform?

Beach volleyball uniform
Beach volleyball uniform

Ahead of the Tokyo Olympics, the Fédération Internationale de Volleyball (FIVB) had issued 22-page guidelines on uniform laying down protocols covering everything. From fabric and color to names and numbers and size of manufacturers’ logos, the government body specified the finest of details through their guidelines.

It included an appendix of drawings of potential styles for women. The appendix featured short sleeves and tank tops, long sleeves for modesty and warmth, long pants and shorts, and a one-piece bathing suit or a bikini. There is no restriction whatsoever around what an athlete, a female, in particular, can wear.

“The FIVB beach volleyball uniform guidelines allow for a variety of different options,” the international federation said. “Beach volleyball welcomes all, and these uniform regulations ensure that our sport is culturally and religiously inclusive.”

The men wear tank tops and board shorts, which can go over long-sleeved shirts and tights in cold weather. Male athletes are even allowed to feature shirtless in domestic events and many prefer to do so.

Why are bikinis so prevalent among beach volleyball players?

Beach volleyball uniform 2
Beach volleyball uniform

The game has its roots in the Caribbean and given the climates, bikinis emerged to be the preferred attire. Moreover, if an athlete wears full-sleeved attires then they would only serve as pockets for sand to get trapped in which in turn will chafe. Hence players prefer to don attire with less material that can trap sand.

Beach volleyball games proceed in all kinds of weather, including the rain from the leading edge of Typhoon Nepartak that dampened the Skiokaze Park venue this week. In Beijing, the Olympics was played in a downpour. In such cases playing in a bathing suit helps. The same goes for extremely hot weather.

Egypt’s Doaa Elghobashy, right, sets up for teammate Nada Meawad against Canada in Rio Games 2016
Egypt’s Doaa Elghobashy, right, sets up for teammate Nada Meawad against Canada in Rio Games 2016

Having said so, athletes can and do wear long-sleeved attires. At the London Games, athletes fashioned leggings and long sleeves under their uniforms on the cooler nights. The Egyptians played in long sleeves, a loose-fitting top, full-length pant legs, and hijabs at the Rio Olympics showing the world that bikinis are not compulsory to play the game one loves.

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