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NEWS

Chasing Olympic Dreams in Long Beach

 
Leonard Armato talks about the third annual ASICS World Series of Beach Volleyball to be played August 17-23 in Long Beach, Calif.
 

Lausanne, Switzerland, July 31, 2015 - The first time around, the ASICS World Series of Beach Volleyball came in the wake of the 2012 London Olympics. The second time, the FIVB Grand Slam event had the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics as an alluring target beckoning in the distance.

On Aug. 17, the crowds will descend onto the TrueCar Court at Alamitos Beach in Long Beach, Calif., knowing that this could be the final United States chance for those chasing their Olympic dreams.

Will Kerri Walsh Jennings be fit enough to keep her in the running for a fourth consecutive gold medal? Will partnership switch and a nagging injury prevent Phil Dalhausser from reclaiming the Olympic title he earned with Todd Rogers in 2008?

That’s only part of the drama for Long Beach in 2015. And that’s exactly how event CEO Leonard Armato wants it.

It’s not enough to put together a true international Grand Slam event. For Armato, it has to be the event of the season, one that will attract as many as 70,000 fans over the course of the week. Even in volleyball-crazy California, it’s a task.

“That just makes the stage bigger and more important for the competitors so yes, that’s a positive,” said Armato, the former commissioner of the Association of Volleyball Professionals, America’s domestic tour. “The bigger the stage, the better the competitors, the more interesting the event. There’s a lot of drama built into the event so we hope that will increase dramatically the interest this year.

“What we’ve learned is you must, must, must push as hard as possible to communicate in a very fragmented marketplace. There’s lots of things for people to do and if you don’t yell loud and clear what you want them to hear with as much marketing weight behind it as possible, the chance is you’re just going to get lost in the shuffle.”

So the festival includes music throughout the week. It has open competitions for men’s and women’s 6-person teams, plus a coed 4-person. There will be a kid’s day. And on the Saturday night following the competition, Adam Lambert will headline an eight-band music festival.

On Friday night on center court, a Brazilian-themed barbecue will be held to not only point to the road to Rio, but will celebrate 20 years of beach volleyball being an Olympic sport.

The four gold medalists from the Atlanta 1996 Summer Games - Karch Kiraly and Kent Steffes of the U.S. and Brazilians Jackie Silva and Sandra Pires will be honored, plus many of their competitors from that inaugural Olympic tournament.

“It’s a celebration of the history of Beach Volleyball but more notably, 2016 will be 20 years at the Olympic Games so we’re going to look back at the first time being on the Olympic stage,” Armato said. “We’re going to acknowledge the legends of the sport and honor those Olympians from the USA and Brazil that played and many others.”

“Go big or go home” has long been a mantra for Armato, a former agent of Shaquille O’Neal. And since he grew up in the Mecca of the sport in Manhattan Beach, Calif., he has long sought to incorporate the lifestyle and culture that has drawn the attention of the world to a sport that has become one of the more popular during each successive Olympiad.

“We believe that to create mass appeal for Beach Volleyball in the United States and around the world, the scale of the event is very important,” Armato said. “And there has to be multiple elements that are interesting to not only beach volleyball fans but sports fans and beach culture fans in general.

“We begin, of course with the best competitors in the world. We are the final Olympic qualification event in the United States, we have our Olympic champions like Kerri Walsh Jennings and Phil Dalhausser fighting to maintain their Olympic dream and keep that hope alive despite some injuries they have suffered recently.

“So this even is very important to them and they’ll be battling the best in the world in a field that seems to be dominated on the men’s and women’s side by the Brazilians.”





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