At the opening SWATCH-FIVB World Tour event in Rhodes, Environment Day on June 5 was marked with a press conference featuring Mr Okada, the Mayor of Rhodes Mr George Giannopoulos, Mr Thanassis Beligratis the President of the Hellenic Volleyball Federation, Mr Angelo Squeo the FIVB Beach Volleyball Coordinator and other distinguished guests and players including the Laciga brothers where the links between the environment and Beach Volleyball were unveiled.
Mr Okada and Mr Giannopoulos later signed an agreement reflecting Rhodes' commitment to using good environmental practices.
Later in the evening an official flag raising ceremony in the Beach Volleyball stadium and outside the theatre, adjacent to the stadium, illustrated the strength of the relationship between the city, Beach Volleyball and GSA, while a children's art competition on the subject of Beach Volleyball and a clean environment was run and judged in between matches.
Since the launch of the Ecoflag project, which is linked to the United Nations environment programme, Beach Volleyball fanatics have welcomed it with open arms all around the world, particularly in Japan where two of the country's finest Beach Volleyballers, Koichi 'Nishi' Nishimura and his partner Kentaro Asahi have volunteered their services and become 'Ecoflag Ambassadors'. "When I played Indoor Volleyball I paid little attention to the environment," said 29-year-old Nishi a Japanese international for five years. "But as soon as I started in beach I realized its importance. I felt the wind and saw how it changed the flight of the ball."
Part of the GSA's campaign is to convince the public to keep the world's beaches tidy and free from garbage. Encouragingly, four times a day during Japanese beach events, the GSA has persuaded spectators to spend five minutes picking litter off the beaches, with the players leading by example. "We are 'Garbage Busters' for the Ecoflag," said Asahi, aged 27. "Japanese beaches are not very clean and because of that the young people will not go to swim. We want to change that. We lead all the fans on to the beach for a quick clear up in between games. We are very proud we can help".
The Ecoflag's "Keep the Beach clean - Think Environment" message also reached the sandy shores of Senegal last month with the launch of a two-year Sport and Environment Eco project. SAPAD (Senegal Network Structure for Development and Growth), in partnership with Centre Sportif Fayda (a Beach Volleyball training organization), launched the Eco campaign to coincide with World Environment Day.
All members of the official ceremony, held in a primary school in a village called Nema Ba, including Senegal's champion Beach Volleyball team of the last five years, all joined in to clean the school playground. Guidance on basic rules and techniques was then offered to children and teachers who had never played Volleyball before and the day was finished off with an exhibition game. "The event was a complete success and we were surprised by the positive reactions and the interest expressed by various age groups to be part of the project," said SAPAD director Birame Diouf. "The link between the selected sports activities, including beach volleyball, and conservation of the natural and cultural heritage is well perceived by young people and adults alike."
The Sport and Environment Eco project will continue to involve the Senegalese public in a number of environmental projects over the next two years, including a Volleyball tournament on July 6, which will be played under the Ecoflag in Dakar involving 700 children between the ages of 8 and 18. From October until December, Beach Volleyball will be introduced into selected schools and villages as part of regular sports activities and throughout 2004 there will be other selected Beach Volleyball training courses, camps, tournaments and programmes dotted throughout the country. Specific objectives of the programme include the introduction and promotion of Beach Volleyball and the promotion of the use of sport to enhance local mobilization of youth in conservation activities and community development initiatives.