Summer Olympics: Sun, sea, sand -- and beach volleyball

Story highlights

  • Beach volleyball started Saturday
  • Brazil's men and women teams win
  • Long queues at Copacabana beach
  • Rio "the Mecca of beach volleyball"

(CNN)As sporting communions go it takes some beating -- sun, sea, sand and beach volleyball on Brazil's Copacabana in an open-air, 12,000-seater arena just meters from the waves crashing onto Rio de Janeiro's golden shore.

The 2016 Olympic competition began Saturday, at a place where hundreds of people gather each day to play the sport on courts dotted along the coastline.
Brazil's passion for the sport was evident in the kilometer-plus queue to enter the arena that stretched down Avenida Atlantica.
    The delay meant the temporary stadium was barely half full when Brazil's men took to the court, although it did fill out for the women's match later in the day.
    Games organizers are yet to answer CNN's request for the total number of tickets sold to the event, though they did issue a statement apologizing to people who had endured the queues while insisting that issue was now in hand.

    High expectations

    By the time the Brazilian women's pairing of Agatha Bednarczuk and Barbara Seixas took to the court, the locals were in full voice.
    The Czech duo of Marketa Slukova and Barbora Hermannova were booed loudly each time they served, with the former admitting after the match that it was something she had never experienced in her decade as a player.
    Behind the passion of the Brazilian fans is an expectation that their players will perform, but Seixas is reveling under the pressure.
    "I don't think there's a lot pressure, not in a negative way," she said after a 2-1 win over the Czechs.
    "I think people just have their expectations because we're playing at home and the history of having a lot of medals in beach volleyball.
    "So it's normal that they cheer for us. But we handled it in a very positive way. We think it's way to motivate us, but not in a bad way."

    'The Magician'

    Earlier in the day, the crowd was smaller but equally vociferous, with the announcer politely reminding spectators to "stay positive for both sides" as Canada's Josh Binstock and Samuel Schachter took on Bruno Schmidt and Alison Cerutti.
    Schmidt, nephew of the legendary Brazilian basketball player Oscar Schmidt, is know as "the magician," while the strapping Cerutti is nicknamed "the mammoth."
    To the delight of the partisan crowd, the Brazilian duo took a hard-earned 2-0 victory in the day's second match.
    The morning after his uncle had carried the Olympic flag during the Opening Ceremony, Schmidt was in his element.
    "It's a dream come true, for sure," the 29-year-old told reporters. "Also, if you take a look in this amazing arena, I don't think it's going to repeat again; a big stadium came from nothing, I doubt they are going to build this again. This is remarkable.
    "This is something I will keep in my mind. I'm going to tell my nephews for sure, my grandchildren, I'm so happy to live in this moment," added Schmidt, who won the world title with Cerutti last year.
    "Playing in this amazing stadium is something remarkable ... fantastic to share with our friends and family who are right here supporting us."

    Landmark moment

    A grand total of 96 athletes from 24 countries will take part in the men's and women's competitions, a mix of agile smaller players and towering power merchants.
    Brazil has won the most medals since beach volleyball debuted at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, but the U.S. has claimed the most golds.
    Although the sport can trace its roots back to the 1920s in Santa Monica, California, it is also intrinsically linked with Rio.
    Even the defeated Canadians were able to savor a landmark moment in their sport.
    "Oh yeah of course, the Mecca of beach volleyball," Schachter replied when asked what it was like to play on a sizzling Copacabana.
    "There's a lot of history in the sport here and it's an honor to play where all of the greats have come to train and play.
    "So that was certainly a great experience, to have the Olympic Games here in such a unique location for beach volleyball."

    'Amazing crowd'

    Even though the vast majority of spectators were against them, Binstock reveled in the boisterous atmosphere.
    "It was amazing," he said. "You feel the energy, not only playing against Brazil but in Brazil.
    Who holds the most incredible Olympic record?
    Who holds the most incredible Olympic record?


      Who holds the most incredible Olympic record?


    Who holds the most incredible Olympic record? 00:59
    "They bring out the best in you and the crowd was amazing, passionate, very knowledgeable."
    When asked about playing against the Brazilian fans as well as the team, he added: "My buddies in the crowd would do the same thing if it was the other way.
    "It wasn't something personal and I don't blame them for being the way they are."
    Above all else, Saturday was for Brazilians to enjoy their Games being up and running. And the experience had Seixas lost for words.
    "Nothing compares to being at home," she said. "With this energy, I don't know, it's hard to explain."