Beach Volleyball – Surely the Best Olympic Sport to Take Your Kid to

I had heard that beach volleyball was awesome, but the praise mostly was coming from men, so I held onto my doubts. Having just been yesterday with a toddler, our first Olympic event at London 2012, I highly recommend it to anyone who can get tickets. It’s not just about women in bikinis, really! Although they will make you feel slightly inadequate for sure.

Here’s Weasel enjoying the match and team GB sat right in front of us

Flags – essential child distraction devices

Why it’s amazing for kids (and adults!):

-Music! Surely not many Olympic events have a dj playing music before, during and after every shot. And, apart from hearing a bit too much of Senora Estafan, the music is actually really good.

-Dancing! Yes, it is a slightly embarrassing ‘dance troupe’ but toddlers love that.

-Crowd participation! Mexican wave? Check. Shouting Ole a lot? Check. Screaming ‘wehey! loads as instructed by the compere? Check. There ain’t no ‘quiet for serve’ here; the louder the better.

-Fast! Matches last about 45 minutes, giving you time in between for loo breaks, food, walking around to distract your toddler, etc.

Practicalities:

Noise: They give you earplugs for your kid when you check in a pram. I doubt a) you’re going to need them, b) you’ll get them into the child, and c) you should be encouraging your toddler to put things into their ears. Weasel slept through Germany vs Mauritius’s entire match despite sitting next to a Mauritius fan. It’s loud, but it’s less loud than say a band playing in a pub. Your kid can be as loud as they want, so bonus.

Getting there: Another big worry of mine which was unfounded. Horse Guards is a 15 minute walk from Waterloo, so no need for the tube (as long as your train goes to Waterloo I suppose!). Sadly the lifts up to Waterloo bridge were broken and the sneaky walkway on the north side was closed off. There are volunteers absolutely everywhere to direct you and we just had them help with the pram. I think they were happy just to have something to do!

Food: Pretty much everything there. Yes, it is expensive. What do you expect? We had bacon butties for breakfast – I recommend if you have kick-ass seats within view of the camera, maybe having a runny egg in it, covering it in ketchup and looking the size of a house is a look best avoided.

Prams?: We were worried having misread the website. Although you can’t take a pram into the actual stadium, you can have it everywhere else. Buggy-check is right next to the stadium (see photo below), free and had very little queue. You get your own queue through security and the soldiers were extra nice to Weasel.

Changing and loos: There does appear to only be one baby changing area at Horse Guards, near the entrance. We walked straight in at 9 for some pre-emptive changing (although strangely the nappy bin was full), but there was a queue of about 8 on the way out. There is one table, but it’s more of a sick bay bed, so I think people were putting multiple kids on there in the end. No lock on that door, so no chance of having a sneaky wee in there yourself (it is a disabled loo, so I’m not sure why the lock was broke…). Normal loos near the entrance were grim. Take a Kleenex in and expect it not to be nice. Or better yet, use one of the many available around the sides of the stadium that most people hadn’t clocked.

Verdict: Go, go, go! We booked our tickets only last weekend, so they do come up, albeit you’re not going to get a kid’s discount at this point.

Pram check in background there and baby changing just out of shot to the left

PS – I seem to be getting a lot of people here googling ‘why do people shout ole in volleyball’ so I thought I should add in an answer as to not disappoint! It looks like it comes originally from Spanish bullfighting (like hooray!), via football in Latin America. Thank you Wikipedia, the source of all knowledge!  Why in volleyball? Well, the Mexican wave and the dj don’t make a whole lot of sense either, but they make it so much better, so that’s why.

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