Rome, Italy, June 19 – Latvia and the Czech Republic may not be countries normally associated with beach volleyball, but for FIVB beach volleyball commission president Dr. Ary Graca, their runs to the women’s and men’s semifinals at the FIVB Swatch World Championships Rome 2011 powered by smart shows how much the sport is growing.Exclusive interviews on FIVB Youtube Video Channel
Hana Klapalova and Lenka Hajeckova’s remarkable run was ended by number one seeds Juliana Felisberta Silva and Larissa Franca, while Latvia’s Martins Plavins and Janis Smedins were stopped by Brazilians Marcio Araujo and Ricardo Santos.
“This is the correct message that we are giving to the world,” Dr. Graca said. “We are seeing small countries like Latvia or countries with developing economies like the Czech Republic able to get here too.
“This is the message that I want to send. For us, it is the result of the development that we have put in place where we can say to everybody ‘you too can be here’. Why? Because Latvia and the Czech Republic are here as well.”
Two traditional beach volleyball powers have shown that they aren’t ready to step aside for a new batch of teams just yet.
Brazil provides both teams in the men’s finals in Ricardo and Marcio against their compatriots Emanuel and Alison. In the women’s final United States’ Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh will try to break Brazil’s hegemony when they play number one sees Juliana and Larissa.
However, Dr. Graca still believes that the United States can learn from the Brazilians when it comes to developing the sport in non-traditional areas.
“It seems that the whole of the United States plays beach volleyball, but that’s not true,” Dr. Graca said. “We still have a lot of work to do in the United States, because they only really play beach volleyball in California and parts of Florida, but it is not enough.
“They have to do what we do in Brazil, where we have beach volleyball all around Brazil. More importantly we have tried to develop beach volleyball and volleyball in poorer areas, most notably in the northeast of the country. We have invested a lot there and when you watch the finals tonight, half the teams come from that part of the country."
In just over a year’s time beach volleyball has the chance to convert another country to the sport when the London 2012 Olympic Games competition begins.
Already the chance to watch beach volleyball in one of London’s most iconic locations – Horse Guard’s Parade – has captivated the country and left Britons scrambling for tickets.
“It is interesting because I thought there were no spectators in England because there isn’t much volleyball or beach volleyball,” Dr. Graca said.
“But we are astonished and it is a big surprise that they have almost sold out all the beach volleyball tickets. It will be a beautiful scene because it is just behind the Palace of Westminster.”