Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

THIS ... IS LONDON?; Beach Volleyball; American Women Continue to Win at Wildly Popular Venue in Historic City; LONDON OLYMPICS

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

THIS ... IS LONDON?; Beach Volleyball; American Women Continue to Win at Wildly Popular Venue in Historic City; LONDON OLYMPICS

Article excerpt

LONDON - As recently as June 16, the Horse Guards Parade grounds were the scene of an elegant and elaborate customary ceremony to celebrate the official birthday of Queen Elizabeth II.

Buckingham Palace and the Houses of Parliament are nearby, and Big Ben is prominently visible across the way.

Among other key government offices adjacent, that of British Prime Minister David Cameron overlooks it all.

Normally, that is.

Because in just over a month's time, the rich historic setting has been radically transformed into the most upbeat atmosphere of the London Olympics: the beach volleyball venue.

Not since "Chariots of Fire" has sand played such a visible role in English sports.

"It's a hell of a contrast," said one worker who asked not to be named because as a volunteer he is not authorized to comment.

With admiration, he added, "From the sublime to the ridiculous."

The juxtaposition of the traditional with what he called the "razzmatazz" was evident every moment of the match late Wednesday night between the two-time gold-medal winning U.S. tandem of Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh against Austrian sisters Stefanie and Doris Schwaiger.

Cheerleaders gyrating in swim suits; near-constant piped-in music, including over and over the Benny Hill theme and bugling to cue fans to shout, "Ol"; a conga line in the stands bringing together fans bearing U.S., Austrian, French, Brazilian and, of course, English flags; and about 15,000 fans dedicated more to having a good time, many with a few beers in them, than ferocious rooting for their teams.

And too bad if Cameron's view of the grounds was obscured by the temporary stadium.

At one point, the irreverent public-address announcer proclaimed that Cameron had been trying get "an early night at 10 Downing" Street and had to go 10 miles away to get some sleep.

"We don't need him here," he said to boisterous applause.

Interviewed on the video board during the match, envious U.S. basketball player Carmelo Anthony said, "We want to play in front of the crowd right here."

To May-Treanor and Walsh, who lost the first set of their Olympic careers together but rallied to win the match 2-1, the vibe in some ways was all the more thrilling specifically because of the clash of cultures. …

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