August 15, 2008 / 3:45 AM / 10 years ago

Chinese learn to party at Olympics beach volleyball

BEIJING (Reuters Life!) - While the beach volleyballers tough it out in the sand, Tom Blaumauer and Chris McGee have faced an Olympic challenge of their own: how to encourage the Chinese to throw a Californian beach party.

Rock music, go-go-girls and rowdy singing in the stands have become as integral a part of beach volleyball as bikinis and board shorts but before Beijing, the announcers were worried the conservative Chinese might not catch the bug.

“We didn’t know if they would react to the Western-style music we play. If not, what do you use?” said Blaumauer, who has led the commentary and entertainment at world tour events since the trend started about 12 years ago.

“Chinese music is just not so rocky and poppy. We need people up there stamping their feet. If they’re sitting down and swaying gently, it’s not so great.”

Blaumauer and McGee, the voices of the U.S. tour, worked with Chinese announcers and DJs to put together potential playlists and taught volunteers how to get the crowd up and dancing.

A week into the event and “We will rock you” and “Minnie the Moocher” (Hi-de-hi-de-hi-de-hi) were working as well in the 12,200-seat Chaoyang Park stadium as anywhere in the world.

The Beach Boys and Robbie Williams, however, were struggling unless there was a quorum of international fans.

A lot was lost in translation the other way as well, as tourists were bemused by high-pitched Chinese ballads and the rousing nationalistic chorus “Ode to the Motherland” that has all the Chinese on their feet and singing at the top of their voices.

“We go by who’s here and what’s going to work,” Blaumauer said as a mixed crowd launched in to “Put your hands up in the air”. He reckoned a tenth of the music they played was Chinese.

CROWD FUN

On the sand, McGee and his Chinese counterpart try to teach the crowd the rules of the game and hand moves to celebrate certain points, like a double-armed wave to German rap refrain “Mein block” when a player blocks the ball at the net.

The international crowd love it. The Chinese are not so sure, although they are becoming dab hands at the Mexican wave.

Certain players also have their own tunes like “American Woman” for the U.S. women’s teams, “Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport” for the Australians and “Zorba the Greek” for, well, the Greeks.

Critics say the high-octane party atmosphere shows that beach volleyball is a lifestyle sport that has no place in the Olympics but given that events like weight lifting are now pumping up the music to keep people going, it seems they were on to something.

“You don’t want people falling asleep in their seats,” said Sinjin Smith, a former top player who has helped put together the entertainment program. “That’s not going to happen here.”

Editing by Belinda Goldsmith

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