The lush Tokyo park with a view of the bay was transformed into a beach paradise for the Tokyo 2020 test event, with fans and players alike delighting in the spectacular surroundings.
The world’s best beach volleyballers have had their first look at Tokyo’s Shiokaze Park, and they’ve given the Olympic Games venue a big thumbs up.
The Tokyo Open, which ran from 24 to 28 July – one year before the Games begin – is a major FIVB competition with a USD 300,000 prize pot. But the tournament was doubly exciting for the athletes this time around, as it was a test event for the Olympics themselves.
The location, format and even the sand were exactly the same as those which will be used at Tokyo 2020. Meanwhile, the stunning surroundings – with views of Tokyo Bay and the Rainbow Bridge – suggested next summer’s tournament can be every bit as memorable as the Rio 2016 event on Copacabana Beach.
The weather conditions also mirrored what athletes can expect next year. After a predicted typhoon failed to materialise, the main pre-event concern was the heat. To counter the climate, participants and spectators were kept cool with devices including mist sprays, wet scarves and ice packs.
“It’s really hot, it’s so different to Norway,” said Anders Mol, whose team with fellow Norwegian Christian Sorum is currently ranked No.1 in the men’s field. “It’s really unusual for us to have this humidity. We have to drink a lot more than we’re used to and we’re also sweating a lot more. We’ve been told it’s going to be maybe the hottest Olympics ever, but we’re excited for it.”
Mol and Sorum beat German pair Nils Ehlers and Lars Fluggen 2-0 (21-17, 21-18) to take the Tokyo Open title. It was their ninth event win on the tour this year and they will be among the favourites to take gold at the Games, but they weren’t making any predictions.
“There are so many good teams out there,” Mol said. “It’s going to be hard for us to keep maintaining this level. I think Russia are really good, Brazil are getting stronger and stronger. The Netherlands, USA. I think there are 15 teams that can win the Olympic Games right now.”
Agatha Bednarczuk and Eduarda Lisboa of Brazil defeated Americans Alix Klineman and April Ross 2-0 (21-19, 21-18) in the women’s final. It was their second title of the season, following their victory at the Ostrava Open in the Czech Republic.
Canada’s Heather Bansley and Brandie Wilkerson won the women’s bronze medal, while the Netherlands’ Alexander Brouwer and Robert Meeuwsen got men’s bronze.
The Tokyo Open adopted the Olympic Games competition format, featuring 24 teams in six round-robin pools, with 16 pairs moving on to the single elimination phase.
“The venue here, the event is very good. Technically it’s run very well,” said FIVB technical delegate Ed Drakich. “The spirit of the volunteers is excellent. The sand is really good. The level of play and athletes are very, very high. We think during the Games it will be a very popular sport.”