PHOTOS: London’s historic Horse Guards Parade transformed into beach volleyball mecca

More than 5,000 tons of sand and 15,000 seats have transformed this historic parade grounds into a party-like beach volleyball venue.

The beach party atmosphere inside Horse Guards Parade today is a stark contrast from the air of royal pageantry that typically takes place there on the queen’s birthday.  

In the 1500′s, the site of London’s Horse Guards Parade is where Henry VIII watched jousting tournaments. The parade grounds were built in 1745 and are typically home to the annual Trooping of the Colour event.

Today, with the help of 5,000 tons of sand, it has been transformed into an international playing field for Olympic beach volleyball, where 15,000 fans whoop and holler as teams of two bump, set and spike their way to gold.  

It is a surreal scene inside the newly erected stadium, which sits on the prime minister’s door step — a skyline of iconic London landmarks, like Westminster Abbey, Big Ben and the London Eye, hovers above the stands as frenzied fans whistle at bikini-clad dancers who take to the sand in between sets. It’s enough to make Queen Elizabeth blush.

Fans from a bevvy of countries enjoyed a vibrant atmosphere that is reminiscent of an NHL game at Madison Square Garden — commentators with British accents encourage the crowd to cheer and clap, silly tunes play while “rakers” smooth sand off the court lines, excited fans initiate “the wave,” vendors sell pizza, chips and beer. Bouts of rain prompted a crowd-wide reaction of pulling on plastic ponchos, but fans didn’t budge from their seats.

After the Netherlands men’s team pulled a close win over Venezuela, fans went wild. Ann Speelman, a Netherlands-native who now lives in London, and her mother proudly waved a flag and gushed about the adrenaline rush of seeing her home country win during the Olympics.

“You’re there, you feel it, it is such an amazing experience,” Speelman told Metro. “Look at this view. We’re so close. To have this as a venue is amazing.”

While countries including Australia, Germany, Latvia and Great Britain played today, there were plenty of nationalities represented in the stands. American Pat Jameson, an aerospace engineer from Phoenix, brought his family of four to London to experience the Olympics and still got decked out in red, white and blue to attend a match in Horse Guards Parade, even though Team USA wasn’t playing till evening.

“Gotta represent,” he said. “We’re just here to soak it in, any venue, any athlete.”

Horse Guards Parade will return to its original function after the London Olympics 2012 come to an end — but for now, it remains the scene of stiff competition, including a win by American women April Ross and Jennifer Kessy over Argentina late Sunday, American men Todd Rogers and Phil Dalhausser over Japan Sunday, and American women Kerri Walsh and Misty May-Treanor over Australians Tasmin Hinchley and Natalie Cook, in a late-night game on Saturday.

London has created an ideal beach volleyball venue in the heart of the city. (All photos by Cassandra Garrison/Metro)

Occasional rain showers bring out ponchos and umbrellas, but the stands remain packed.

Ann Speelman, of the Netherlands, and her mother celebrate after the Netherlands men’s beach volleyball team defeats Venezuela.

The crowd enjoyed these scantily-clad dancers performing beach-themed numbers and conga lines between sets.

American Pat Jameson, of Phoenix, and his family still represent for Team USA even though they weren’t playing till evening.

The Olympics call for an American pedicure for this fan.

Brits outnumbered any other fan base at Horse Guards Parade.

Fans from Spain proudly represent.



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

FDNY debuts new fire simulator for blazes at…

The New York City Fire Department christened its newest, state-of-the-art, custom-built simulator at its training academy on Randall's Island Tuesday.

Local

Bronx cop saves baby who stopped breathing

A Bronx police officer is credited with saving the life of a 2-month-old baby who stopped breathing Tuesday morning. Police Officer Johnny Castillo, 38, was…

Local

Brewer celebrates Women's Equality Day with voter pledge

Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer celebrated Women’s Equality Day Tuesday by pledging to register at least five women voters before the Oct. 10 deadline. Brewer…

Local

NYPD looking for lewd D train rider

The NYPD is enlisting the public’s help to find a man they say performed a lewd act on the D train Saturday evening. The incident…

Entertainment

QUIZ: How many English words do you actually…

Are you as smart as you say you are? Are you a word nerd? Take this quick vocabulary test to find out if you're a true wordsmith. Good luck.

Television

'Pretty Little Liars' recap: Season 5, Episode 12,…

If you've wondered whether Ali and Bethany knew each other, you got an answer tonight: Yes, and in a very tangled way. But many lingering…

Entertainment

Cymbals Eat Guitars Have Everything to 'LOSE'

At its most basic level, a rock band can be thought of as a family, a group of people selflessly devoted to a cause. When…

Entertainment

"Bachelor in Paradise" recap: Episode 4, 'Week Four'

Some things are hard to watch in a “Human Centipede” sort of way. Other things in an “American History X” sort of way. Does “Bachelor…

College

When are 2014 college football playoffs? (Schedule, date,…

When and where are 2014 college football playoffs? A look at the schedule, date, TV, time for the semi-finals at championship game.

NFL

Dimitri Patterson suspended only for rest of preseason…

Dimitri Patterson ended up getting just a slap on the wrist.

Sports

Eugenie Bouchard excited for 'rowdy' fans at US…

Eugenie Bouchard is sure to endear herself to New York's tennis faithful as she tries to win her first grand slam title across the next two weeks.

MLB

MLB Power Rankings: Angels and A's still at…

MLB Power Rankings: Angels and A's still at top, Nationals climb

Wellbeing

Who is having the most orgasms?

  Single lesbians report having orgasms more often than heterosexual women but both gay and straight men still come out on top of the climax…

Home

Jonathan Adler shares his tips for a great…

Jonathan Adler took a break from boogie boarding at his beach house to tell us how to keep that Labor Day party festive.

Travel

Most popular Labor Day weekend destinations

Priceline.com released its Top 20 destinations for the end of summer, including Labor Day weekend. If you’re heading to any of these spots, expect a…

Wellbeing

Working your way to type 2 diabetes: Job…

When it comes to type 2 diabetes, a stressful job can be as risky for your health as a bad diet and no exercise. A…