Beach volleyball is known to many as the sport of "beach babes," but when Olympic preliminary competitions begin July 28 in London, fans may see a new outfit adorning the athletes' bronzed bodies: full body suits.
"Obviously we're that sport, we're the sport that wears the bikinis and we're the sport that's physically out there," Australian player Tamsin Hinchley told The Associated Press. "But we're jumping and running and sliding on the sand. We'll be using it [cold weather gear] to benefit us physically. We'll definitely be taking it."
The competition in beach volleyball, a sport that dates back to California beaches in the early 1900s and whose female competitors are known for their teeny bikinis, will last through Aug. 9. The London weather forecast calls for temperatures in the mid to high 60s with an occasional rain shower during the day and low 50s at night, according to weather.com.
During the preliminary competition, some matches will be played as late as 11 p.m., which may force players out of their bikinis and into full body suits.
"We need it to keep our muscles warm," Hinchley told the AP. "It's an extremely strenuous sport."
Beach volleyball players are allowed to wear shorts with a maximum length of 3 cm, bikinis, jerseys or tank tops, according to the Federation of International Volleyball (FIVB) Official Rules. They are also allowed to wear full sleeved tops or full body suits. This is to respect the customs and religious beliefs of countries, the rules state.
"The regulations are that it's tight fitting, so if that's what you're there for, whatever," Hinchley told the AP.
Forty-eight men and 48 women, representing 23 countries, will make up 24 teams of two to compete in beach volleyball at the 2012 London Olympics. The competition will take place on 5,000 tons of sand at the Horse Guards Parade in central London just down the street from Westminster Abbey and Buckingham Palace. The parade dates back to 1745 and still hosts the Trooping of the Colour event that takes place each year on the Queen's birthday.
The women's beach volleyball medals will be awarded Aug. 8 and the men's medals will be awarded August 9.
But don't get your hopes up about snagging a ticket, because the beach volleyball events are already all sold out, according to the FIVB.
Beach volleyball became an Olympic medal sport at the 1996 Atlanta Games. Team USA has won five of the eight gold medals awarded since the sport's Olympic debut.