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  • Vienna Beach Volleyball Vibe Rivals Rio


    (ATR) Austrian beach volleyball fans are sent into a wild frenzy as hometown heroes Clemens Doppler and Alexander Horst win match point defeating a team from Qatar.

    Austrian fans go berserk after hometown favorites Clemens Doppler and Alexander Horst win their match. (ATR)
    Flags fly and a blaring DJ entices the crowd to noise levels that would have given Mozart a headache.

    Despite steamy temperatures and a sun-drenched stadium with limited shade, the atmosphere at the FIVB Volleyball World Championships in Vienna has been electric all week long.

    “What is happening here in Vienna, in this stadium with 10,000 crazy people is the best thing ever in beach volleyball,” Horst told Around the Rings shortly after the victory, sending his team onwards to the quarterfinals.

    Better than Rio

    Players say the 10,000-capacity Red Bull Beach Arena, raucous atmosphere inside and Danube Island venue is just as good, if not better than at Rio 2016.

    “This place is packed – in Rio I think we only had one game that was fully packed,” said U.S. veteran Nick Lucena after a win with partner and Olympic champion Phil Dalhausser on Friday. “This venue is awesome, the city is great and the crowd energy is amazing.”

    Overhead view of the Danube Island Beach Volleyball Venue (Red Bull)
    Rio 2016 gold medalist Laura Ludwig compared the Austrian venue to Rio’s Copacabana, giving it rave reviews.

    “Copacabana is always special, especially for us as a team and I’m really impressed about Vienna as well,” after the triumph which sent the Germans to the semifinals. “The Austrians are crazy about beach volleyball for sure, the area is amazing and the location is big and unusual.”

    She added: “It’s way hotter than in Brazil, which I didn’t expect, but it’s been an amazing atmosphere.”

    Thrilling Competition

    The tournament has had its share of compelling sea-saw matches, unforeseen upsets and above average play from non-traditional beach volleyball countries such as Cuba and Qatar.

    Canadian duo Chaim Schalk and Ben Saxton pulled off perhaps the biggest upset of the tournament by eliminating Brazilian Olympic champions Alison and Bruno in Friday’s opening match.

    Canadians Chaim Schalk & Ben Saxton after upsetting the Brazilian Olympic Champions. (ATR)
    “It’s incredible – this place is ridiculous, the fans are super cool, friendly, nice and it packed up for our game,” Schalk said. “They’re so loud and this is as big as the Rio stadium. I’m enjoying every minute.

    “It’s one of the most fun crowds to play in front of,” Saxton added. “In Brazil, it’s a little more hostile – they’re going to boo and whistle at you when you’re serving. Here they’re cheering for good volleyball and it’s an awesome environment.”

    Despite the tough loss, Bruno admitted the Vienna venue was “amazing.”

    Temperatures reached their peak this week on Thursday, soaring to near 40 degrees Celsius. However, the Red Bull Arena remained nearly at capacity.

    Forty-eight men’s and women’s teams are competing in the Austrian capital.

    A First for Vienna

    The innovative sport presentation has been a lively event with a DJ rousing the crowd and leading chants as bikini clad dancers in towers spray fans with streams of water to keep them cool.

    Brazilian Olympic champions Alison & Bruno versus Canada's Schalk and Saxton at Red Bull Arena. (ATR)
    The 2017 FIVB World Championships mark the first time that the Austrian capital has hosted a major international beach volleyball event. Austrian organizers may have taken a slight gamble hosting the event, uncertain about fan turnout, considering the first-time endeavor.

    This may be summed up best in the edgy and provocative event slogan of “Vienna Got Balls” conceived by the Austrian Tourist Board.

    The raucous crowd may not be a total surprise though, as the southern Austrian lake city of Klagenfurt has been a longtime beach volleyball stop and regarded as one of the best on tour.

    Vienna’s Danube Island venue is about a 20-minute drive from the city center. While the island stretches 21 kilometers in length, it is only 250 meters wide, making for a compact and fun atmosphere.

    “The venue is even bigger than at the Olympic Games and we have the beach village where people can be entertained trying different sports,” said FIVB new events business director Angelo Squeo.

    Connecting the Red Bull Arena to courts two and three is the Swatch Beach Village. Visitors can try the high flying game of Bossaball, climb a boulder wall, get soaked sliding a giant waterslide, serve volleyballs or watch matches on the large Vidi Wall, among other activities.

    IOC President Thomas Bach honorary first serve while alongside FIVB President Dr. Ary Graca. (FIVB)
    Adjacent to the stadium court is the “Schulschiff” – a school on a boat that serves as both the press center and FIVB headquarters.

    FIVB president Ary Graça applauded the enthusiastic fans and Austrian capital city for hosting the showcase tournament.

    “It is great to see such passionate fans from all over the world uniting in their love for beach volleyball,” Graça tells Around the Rings.

    “Vienna is one of Europe’s finest cities and a perfect venue for this wonderful competition.”

    The ten-day championships conclude on Aug. 6 with the women’s final on Saturday, followed by the men on Sunday.

    Written by Brian Pinelli in Vienna, Austria.

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