Olympics 2012: A beginner’s guide to beach volleyball

Ahead of tonight's women's final, a run-through of the rules and some of those enigmatic hand signals...

The beach volleyball competition brings a touch of southern California to Horse Guards Parade. But there’s more to the sport than the spectacle of toned bodies in swimwear. It is a highly athletic and absorbingly tactical sport. Matches are the best of five sets, the first four to 21 points and the final one (if required) to 15. As in the indoor version, points can only be scored by the team serving – if they lose a rally, service passes to their opponents. But there are two rather than six athletes per team, and the court is covered in sand to a leg-sapping depth of 40cm. Johnny Acton


The signals are crucial in volleyball. Here’s how to decipher them…

“I’ll block spike shots (opponents’ hits over the net) from the from the left side and from the right side ‘on the line’ (towards the outside of the net)”

“I intend to block spikes from either side of the court”

“I’ll block attempted spikes from the right side of the court; if they come from the left I’ll pull back from the net”


The women’s bronze medal match is tonight at 7pm, with the gold medal match following at 9pm on BBC3 and BBC Olympics 2