Baltimore chosen as host for beach volleyball trials Olympic spots on line June 5-9 at HarborView


March 04, 1996|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,SUN STAFF

Baltimore will get a chance to show its Olympic spirit again this year. The Inner Harbor has been chosen as the site of the first-ever men's and women's U.S. Olympic Beach Volleyball Trials.

USA Volleyball and International Marketing Group will announce today that the Olympic qualifying tournament will be held June 5-9 at HarborView Marina & Yacht Club. Baltimore, one of six locales to make a serious bid for the trials, was chosen from a short list of finalists that also included Dallas and Kiawah Island, S.C.

"Obviously, we're delighted," said Barbara Bozzuto, executive director of the Maryland Sports Corporation. "We're really pleased because we played a role in 1992 with the gymnastics trials and now we're playing a part in the '96 Olympics."

Beach volleyball has experienced a meteoric rise in popularity, going from cable TV time-filler to first-time Olympic medal sport in little more than a decade. HarborView already has played host to two large tournaments, and the success of those events apparently had a major impact on Baltimore's Olympic bid.

More than 4,000 temporary bleacher seats will be installed at HarborView for the five-day event, and nearly 25,000 day-pass tickets will be made available to the public. Bozzuto said yesterday that the Maryland Sports Corporation and city officials will hold a news conference soon to announce details.

The tournament will determine the final makeup of the U.S. beach volleyball contingent, which will consist of three two-man teams and three two-woman teams, but the top U.S. men's and women's pair in the international rankings get automatic Olympic berths. That means that the men's team of Sinjin Smith and Carl Henkel and the women's team of Holly McPeak and Nancy Reno do not have to qualify.

The qualifying process has been a major point of contention since beach volleyball was chosen as a medal sport in 1993, and it could be a source of controversy when the trials begin, but the event is expected to create a festive atmosphere at the Inner Harbor.

Beach volleyball has grown in popularity because it combines athletic competition with youth-oriented entertainment to create a "beach party" environment.

A recent competition at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., included appearances by two popular Baltimore bands and drew nearly 5,000 spectators. During the trials, organizers plan to convert the warehouse at HarborView into a nightclub where fans and participants can mingle after the day's competition.

"We expect there to be great interest in this," Bozzuto said. "We're trying to make it as much of an event as we can."

The Maryland Sports Corporation, which brought the gymnastics trials to the Baltimore Arena in 1992, also prepared a bid for the short-course cycling trials last year, but had to withdraw it when Carroll County Commissioners voted against funding the event.

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