Olympics 2016

You're missing the best of Rio 2016 if you aren't following the beach volleyball at the Copacabana

The sport is back to its spiritual home.

Is it the ultimate beach volleyball venue? Hawaii invented the sport but the Copacabana in Rio de Janeiro is the spiritual home of beach volleyball, the sexy sibling of the indoor equivalent. The volleyball venue majestically rises from the pristine sands, not far from the stately Hotel Copacabana Palace, where American singer Barry Manilow mused, in his 1978 hit song of the same name, “At the copa, Copacabana, The hottest spot north of Havana…”

In Rio, the Copacabana is indeed a hotspot. The famed stretch of beach is very different from the bubble at the other clusters of Olympic activity, the Olympic Park in Barra da Tijuca, the Deodoro zone and the Maracana zone, semi-demilitarised vestiges of sporting prowess, with colourful draping, an army of volunteers and plenty of shuttle buses.

Happy Friday! A view from Copacabana. ❤ 49 days to go! #RoadtoRio

A photo posted by The Olympic Games (@olympics) on

A symbol of carioca

The Copacabana is Brazil’s touristy postcard and a symbol for Rio, the mad Carioca capital. Cariocas, as Rio’s residents are called, play and live on the beach, munching on snacks, sipping on all-too strong Caipirinhas with maracaju – passion fruit – scanning racks of cheap jewellery and other paraphernalia, and engaging in futvolei, an acrobatic contraption between football and volleyball.

In Leme, in the shadow of the Sugar Loaf Mountain, in an outer corner of Copacabana beach, dozens and dozens of volleyball nets are set up, with locals playing. In many ways, the beach is Brazil’s democratic forum, where everyone can participate in social life. That does come with a caveat.

Copacabana, and the Ipanema beach, mirror Brazilian class differences. The rich and upper class frequent the sands of Leblon, the left stretch of the Ipanema beach. The middle class flock to Ipanema beach, the poor and the locals to Arpoador (the right stretch of Ipanema beach). The Copacabana beach houses the tourist class, with Leme hosting, again, the locals and the poor.

There, in front of Taberna Atlantica, Joao Carlos Reis, 49 and a federal civil servant, played futvolei with Jairzinho, a member of the Brazilian football team which won the football World Cup in 1970. They displayed delightful skills: flicks, flying headers, chest-controls and flighted passes. Reis is also a fervent volleyball aficionado, a borderline rato de praia [beach rat], a knowledgeable and excellent amateur player.

#copacabanabeachvolleyball #rio2016🇧🇷 #brasilia🇧🇷 #swiss🇨🇭 #monsterblocks #aceace #bestfans

A photo posted by Demetra Marcus Bell (@demetramarcusbell) on

Part of the Rio culture

“Beach volleyball has always been a part of Rio de Janeiro’s culture,” explained Reis. “In the ‘90’s, the sport gained importance with the founding of national and international beach volleyball circuits.”

Last Wednesday, Reis attended a pool match at the 12,000-all-seater temporary stadium. The Brazilian women’s double team Rippel Agatha and Barbara de Freitas, among the favorites, succumbed to 2-0 defeat against Spain. “It felt as if I was on the court,” beamed Reis.

In the men’s draw, the Brazilian duo of Alison Cerutti and Bruno Schmidt progressed to the semi-final stage, defeating the United States on Tuesday. They are one of the top contenders to win gold – on Friday, they dispatched the European champions, Spain’s Pablo Herrera and Adrian Gavira 24-22 21-13. They enjoyed the vociferous backing of the home fans, all spurred on by tracks from Michel Telo, Gustavo Lima and Taylor Swift. Boos drowned out a five-second attempt at E Viva Espana, with Brazilian fans incessantly straddling the line between the supportive and the outright nasty.

The home duo’s skill set was superior. Midway through the second set, Cerutti made multiple blocks to ensure a comfortable win for the Brazilians. The fans went berserk. Here was a crowd that simply loved every spike and dig, that loved every ace and block. High up in the grandstand, dressed in a tri-colored bikini and a mini-skirt, Renata Mello, 26 and a marketer from Sao Paulo, was enjoying the game.

#beachvolleyball #rio2016 #omega #rioolympics #riodejaneiro

A photo posted by ryosuke nihonyanagi (@yanaginihon) on

A country that loves the beach

“Brazil is O Pais Tropical [The tropical country, a reference to the famous Brazilian song from musician Jorge Ben Jor],” said Mello. “It is a country that loves the beach. Beach volleyball is one of the faces of Brazil. The game was already important [in its indoor form]. The energy is superb and everyone is giving their maximum. It’s a wonderful experience [to be here].”

Mello left after the Brazilian game, but as Canadian duo Sarah Pavan and Heather Bansley won the next game with the white foam of the Atlantic repeatedly breaking through the Olympic rings, towering over the seaside stand, the venue’s beauty and natural richness were unequivocal.

Just six more days! 😍 #RoadToRio

A photo posted by The Olympic Games (@olympics) on

Beach volleyball has a history of stunning settings - London’s Horse Guards Parade with the Big Ben, Parliament and the Eye as a backdrop, and Sydney’s Bondi Beach, but the Copacabana topples the other venues both scenically and symbolically. It is simply the perfect venue for the game. Beach volleyball at the Copacabana beach is like football at the old Wembley, cricket at Lord’s and lawn tennis at Wimbledon.

So is it the ultimate venue for the sport?

“This is where it all began!” said Reis emphatically.

“Definitely, it is the birthplace of the sport,” said Pavan, who lived two years in Rio de Janeiro. “The fans are knowledgeable and the environment is simply great. It’s rewarding to play here.”

What a great picture of the Olympic Rings on Copacabana Beach! Photo by @gettyimages

A photo posted by The Olympic Games (@olympics) on

We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BY 

Watch Ruchir's journey: A story that captures the impact of accessible technology

Accessible technology has the potential to change lives.

“Technology can be a great leveller”, affirms Ruchir Falodia, Social Media Manager, TATA CLiQ. Out of the many qualities that define Ruchir as a person, one that stands out is that he is an autodidact – a self-taught coder and lover of technology.

Ruchir’s story is one that humanises technology - it has always played the role of a supportive friend who would look beyond his visual impairment. A top ranker through school and college, Ruchir would scan course books and convert them to a format which could be read out to him (in the absence of e-books for school). He also developed a lot of his work ethos on the philosophy of Open Source software, having contributed to various open source projects. The access provided by Open Source, where users could take a source code, modify it and distribute their own versions of the program, attracted him because of the even footing it gave everyone.

That is why I like being in programming. Nobody cares if you are in a wheelchair. Whatever be your physical disability, you are equal with every other developer. If your code works, good. If it doesn’t, you’ll be told so.

— Ruchir.

Motivated by the objectivity that technology provided, Ruchir made it his career. Despite having earned degree in computer engineering and an MBA, friends and family feared his visual impairment would prove difficult to overcome in a work setting. But Ruchir, who doesn’t like quotas or the ‘special’ tag he is often labelled with, used technology to prove that differently abled persons can work on an equal footing.

As he delved deeper into the tech space, Ruchir realised that he sought to explore the human side of technology. A fan of Agatha Christie and other crime novels, he wanted to express himself through storytelling and steered his career towards branding and marketing – which he sees as another way to tell stories.

Ruchir, then, migrated to Mumbai for the next phase in his career. It was in the Maximum City that his belief in technology being the great leveller was reinforced. “The city’s infrastructure is a challenging one, Uber helped me navigate the city” says Ruchir. By using the VoiceOver features, Ruchir could call an Uber wherever he was and move around easily. He reached out to Uber to see if together they could spread the message of accessible technology. This partnership resulted in a video that captures the essence of Ruchir’s story: The World in Voices.

Play

It was important for Ruchir to get rid of the sympathetic lens through which others saw him. His story serves as a message of reassurance to other differently abled persons and abolishes some of the fears, doubts and prejudices present in families, friends, employers or colleagues.

To know more about Ruchir’s journey, see here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Uber and not by the Scroll editorial team.