Beach volleyball is one of those rare sports were women get much more attention than the men, and it's pretty obvious why. The gals until this year had to wear bikinis when playing, while the guys are still prevented from playing shirtless.
"The female body is a masterpiece. Everyone likes to look at the female body, especially in dynamic, athletic sport," said Natalie Cook of Australia to Reuters. "I'm OK with it. It's the only sport where the women dominate. If it starts with the bikini, fine."
The rules for women have been relaxed to allow more clothing, in deference to women whose religion forbids them from showing too much skin. And in London, some teams have bundled up because it's chilly playing at night in London, even in the summer.
I get the whole women-in-bikini thing and the players seem cool with the attention they get. Women's beach volleyball is a hot ticket and it gets pride of place on NBC's prime time schedule. Good for them.
But I never understood why the men had to wear tank tops and shorts. In beach volleyball, the cut of most of men's Olympics uniforms makes them look positively unsexy. What's more, it goes against the culture of the sport in sunny climes like Southern California, Brazil and Australia, where guys wear boardshorts but go shirtless. It is a weird double standard; we see plenty of shirtless guys in swimming and diving, and track outfits leave little to the imagination. Why do men beach volleyballers have to cover up?
Photographer Brent Mullins, who has shot dozens of men's and women's pro beach events in Southern California, finally heard an explanation when he was listening to a beach official interviewed on the BBC:
"He replied that it was their 'uniform' and that the men were required to wear the sleeveless shirts so they could 'put their number and name and flag of the country on it to identify them, and at non-Olympic events for sponsors' - as if they couldn't do that on the shorts as they've done here in SoCal forever."
It's a lame answer, as Brent supplied a shot he took of Phil Dalhausser he took in a non-Olympic tournament:
Quite a contrast. There's plenty of room on shorts for a name and country (or a small flag). Let the guys show us what they got! End the coverup!