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'Game show' atmosphere takes over Pan Am beach volleyball

07/15/2015 01:31 EDT | Updated 07/15/2016 05:59 EDT
Perfectly manicured sand, a DJ blasting a rhythm of earth-shaking bass, feeding a raucous crowd where swimsuits and bikinis act as proper business attire.

It may sound like a review to a destination resort, but this party is held just off the shores of Lake Ontario — the Chevrolet Beach Volleyball Centre, widely considered the place to be during these 2015 Pan Am Games in Toronto.

"The goal is to have a great time," said Greg Bowman, managing and creative director for Great Big Events, the company held in charge of, as he puts it, "all the fun stuff."

The action on the courts may be enough entertainment for most, timeouts during matches may be even livelier than the play itself at times.

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Impromptu dance parties in the crowd taking place, spectators getting soaked by water guns from volunteers in Toronto's summer heat is part of the game in Bowman's eyes.

"We've got emcees, cameras, dancers, water pistols, everything we can think of to interact with the crowd."

There's even a hype man whipping the crowd into a frenzy during stoppages in play, conducting the crowd to be in-step with the beat of the music.

The London Olympics did something similar with its beach volleyball venue, turning it into a raucous gathering place with loud speakers and an emcee. The 2016 Rio Olympics are planning to take it one step further by putting some of the matches at the famed Copacabana beach at midnight.

Apart from the in-game festivities during matches, the actual structure of the venue serves as a cauldron of noise that promotes a uniquely intimate experience.

The Chevrolet Beach Volleyball Centre is a four-sided pavilion, seating roughly 5,000 supporters; a blueprint that Bowman sees as ideal for both the spectator and especially the athletes themselves.

"The athletes, they're ready and raring for all the noise, and they want the party," said Bowman. "The party is what gets them going as well so it helps the athletes as well. The crowd feels like they're part of it, they can almost touch the athletes they're so close."

'Game show atmosphere'

The venue's in-house emcee, Najjah Calibur, has taken note of the rising popularity the Chevrolet Beach Volleyball Centre has generated due in part to its relaxed vibe and high-energy production.

"The way they have that fusion of the party with real competition, real integrity, it makes for a great show," Calibur stated while preparing for his next in-crowd stunt.

"It's almost a game show within a serious competition," he added.

Calibur attributes the success of Toronto's newly adopted home for beach volleyball to the man behind the music, DJ Rae Tretiak, who goes by the moniker of "Hawkshaw."

"He's picking the right songs," said Calibur. "Because obviously you want the BPM (beats per minute) to be at a certain level, to keep the energy going."

The cozy, yet literally electrifying setting has captivated many during these Pan Am Games, including Canada's own beach volleyball tandem of Richmond Hill's Josh Binstock and Samuel Schachter.

"This [venue] is definitely high pressure and exciting, explains Binstock, following their opening preliminary match win over Nicaragua, "but it's something that we relish and embrace."

With preliminary matches ongoing inside the courts, you have now been warned that the odd spray of a water cannon may catch you when you least expect it, but Bowman maintains that fans soaking up the atmosphere instead, are of the highest importance during these games.

"People come here wanting to have a good time, and we don't want to disappoint them."

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