Image: Beach girls
Georgios Kefalas  /  EPA
Beach girls show off their moves during the beach volleyball matches.
By
msnbc.com contributor
updated 8/18/2008 11:02:12 PM ET 2008-08-19T03:02:12
OLYMPICS NIGHTLIFE

This is an ongoing series of Olympics cultural reports Sunny Wu is filing from Beijing. Check back twice a day for 'The Buzz' and 'Nightlife.'

Beach volleyball + 10,000 fans + beach girls = formula for fun.

Fans who have been able to score tickets and venture out to Chaoyang Park — about 30 minutes away from the Olympic Village — have been treated to one of the best produced events of the Olympics. I trekked to Chaoyang Park on Monday to watch the last night match of the Olympics.

The U.S. duo of Sean Rosenthal and Jacob Gill were facing the favored team from Brazil, Ricardo Santos and Emanuel Rego, in the quarterfinals. And I wasn't going to let anything ( like a pair of cute kids becoming friends ) distract me from a night of action on the sand — and bikinis.

For all the negativity surrounding how the Olympics have been run, organizers have done something right with beach volleyball. They've let beach volleyball be, well, beach volleyball.

They've let the sport be its loose, fun-loving self. They've pumped the stadium full of aural and visual eye candy. They've allowed the beach girls to wear what they want, which is practically nothing.

Two huge projection screens placed atop the second deck display replays of the action. Screens around the stadium implore the crowd to interact and cheer. The announcer, plucked from the rowdy, let-the-good-times roll AVP Tour, serves as the masters of ceremonies, his baritone voice hyping the crowd from first serve to last spike.

"That's what makes it fun," Tim Gonguis of Baton Rouge, La., said after Rosenthal and Gill's straight sets defeat. "The funnest event here is beach volleyball. Because it's the music, the girls dancing, people screaming, everybody dancing. Everybody's into it."

Many Chinese had caught the beach volleyball bug. Spectators on the lower deck were dancing along with the beach girls during every timeout, middle-aged fathers were leading cheers with their Thunderstix, and entire families — grandmothers to toddlers sitting on their laps — were watching intently, oohing and aahing during long rallies.

Women's beach volleyball semifinalsThe 12,000-seat stadium was nearly full, although some spectators seemed to be volunteers or schoolchildren. No matter. The crowd cheered at every opportunity, chanting "Bra-zil, jia you!" or "Mei guo, jia you!" The Chinese were also cheering on China, even though the men’s team had long been eliminated.

"To me it felt like the USA came to Beijing," said Tim Kieffer, also from Baton Rouge. "For us being so far away from home it was like sitting in the middle of the United States. ... I felt like I was on the beach in California."

And the beach girls probably made Kieffer feel like he was sitting on a lounge chair on Manhattan Beach. The beach girls could be the most popular performers at the Olympics. Volunteers — and this intreprid reporter — who had access to the tunnel bugged them and asked them for photos in between matches. (Dear editor: Thank you for my credential.)

Their skimpy bikinis have to be seen to be believed. Their performances, while hardly setting dancing trends, do the job, especially for the men of all nations who were lasciviously studying their moves. If there's one thing that brings men together in silence and unity, it's a group of beach girls shaking and gyrating on the sand. Perhaps they should employ that tactic at the next Georgia-Russia peace conference.

"I wish the countries and the presidents could feel what we all feel," Gonguis said. "Because nobody would ever be at war. Because everybody is having a good time and being together as one."

Beach volleyball bringing about world peace. I can endorse that — as long as the beach girls are allowed into the United Nations.

Sunny Wu will be writing for msnbc.com throughout the Beijing Olympics. He can be reached at sunny.k.wu@gmail.com. You can follow more of his exploits at http://meiguoren.wordpress.com/.

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