LONDON -- Bikinis, beer, Beach Boys music and Big Ben provide an incongruous setting for beach volleyball in the pouring rain smack in the middle of Horse Guards Parade.
London weather, which is returning to its usual drizzly, chilly pattern, wont deter fun-loving fans or scantily clad players at the 2012 Olympics most boisterous venue, a spot usually reserved for stoic royal guardsmen on obedient horses.
For two weeks, its a beach in the center of this dense city, flanked by historic buildings, the prime ministers offices, Winston Churchills underground war rooms, a statue of Lord Mountbatten and Londons poshest park, St. James.
Even if the skies are gray and the downpours drenching, as they were Sunday, the matches will continue because neither players nor Britons are deterred by the elements.
If its raining, hailing or were freezing our bums off, we carry on, said Julie Meireles, a nurse from Ayr, Scotland.
Her friend, Amy Fitzgerald, a nurse in London, lamented that England hasnt had a proper summer since 2006. Three months of record rainfall preceding the Olympics was followed by a week-long hot spell. Variable weather has returned.
My heart sinks when on a big occasion our weather is bloody awful, like it was for the queens silver jubilee, Meireles said.
The players dont mind. Their tour includes stops in Switzerland, Austria and Finland, and the Finns are known to say that there is no such thing as wrong weather, only the wrong clothing.
The British pair of Zara Dampney and Shauna Mullin wore their red bikinis throughout their 2-1 victory over Canada. When the temperature drops below 68 degrees players are allowed to don crop tops and leggings, but The Sun, a cheeky London tabloid, asked Dampney and Mullin to promise not to cover up in a recent article, so as not to disappoint fans, particularly when the camera zooms onto the hand signals they flash behind their bikini bottoms. A Sun reporter brought a thermometer to the match and the temperature did dip, but the players kept their promise. Mullin, a milky-skinned lass from Scotland, said the wet conditions only affect their hand sets.
Theres been a lot of hype about beach volleyball, she said. People may come for the appearance of the players, but they leave having learned how athletic it is.
Dampney and Mullin played two Montreal natives who grew up skating, sledding, skiing and snowboarding.
Cold? What cold?
Well, the sand was cold, Marie-Andree Lessard said. My feet were frozen. But the ambiance warmed us up.
The venue announcer kept up a constant patter between points and played loud cuts of music, such as Queens We Will Rock You and the Beach Boys I Get Around. During timeouts, a dance crew in swimsuits did the Macarena.
The rain was at its heaviest when the womens cycling road race ended with a sprint finish nearby. Fans opened umbrellas or put plastic shopping bags over their heads. The ball boys and girls toweled off the volleyballs. This is the home of Wimbledon, after all, where tennis was played for more than a century before TV demanded a roof over Centre Court.
Soggy fans werent grumbling. It was a beach party. They were drinking, cheering and drinking. From the upper stands you can see Londons rooftops, clock towers, spires, domes and chimneys and imagine youve got Mary Poppins aerial view.