Rio de Janeiro, Aug 6 (IANS) It’s hard to imagine a more fitting venue for the 2016 Olympic beach volleyball competition than Rio’s emblematic Copacabana beach.

The 4-kilometer expanse of oceanfront is a haven for weekend athletes, dotted with infrastructure such as soccer goals and volleyball nets.

“It is excellent to play (volleyball) here, with this beach atmosphere, the sea breeze and so many people working out,” area resident Fabio was quoted on Friday as saying by Efe, acknowledging that he only took up the sport a few months ago.

Beach volleyball and Copacabana have become so entwined in the popular imagination that many people think the game originated here. In fact, the sport arose in the 1920’s as a popular summer pastime among young people in Santa Monica, California.

More than 60 years passed before beach volleyball gained official recognition and the world championship was held in 1987 on another famous Rio beach, Ipanema.

The event marked the start of the great rivalry between the U.S. and Brazil, a contest that took centre stage at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, where Brazil’s Jackie Silva and Sandra Pires won gold in the female category and US duo Karch Kiraly and Kent Steffes took top honours on the men’s side.

The 2016 Olympic beach volleyball tournament, comprising 68 matches, starts Saturday on Copacabana.

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    The IANS was founded by Indian American publisher Gopal Raju as the India Abroad News Service. It was later renamed the Indo-Asian News Service.

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