Zurich's main train station is being transformed into a sandy paradise this weekend as Switzerland's annual beach volleyball tour gets underway.This content was published on May 2, 2002 - 15:57
Around 200 tonnes of sand have been trucked into the station's entrance hall to create a temporary playground for the world's top volleyballers.
In the ten years since it began, the Swiss Beach Tour has grown into one of the country's most unusual sporting successes, attracting more than 100,000 spectators last year.
However, organiser Federico Addiechi recalls that things weren't so easy in the early days.
"At first everyone thought we were crazy trying to introduce this sport to Switzerland," Addiechi told swissinfo during final preparations for this weekend's event. "There was no good sand in this country and of course no sea or beaches so people thought we were nuts.
"Year by year though we proved that we were on the right track and tens year later we can be very proud to be presenting the show in such a great place as Zurich's main train station."
The growth of the Tour's popularity in recent years owes a great deal to the amazing international success of Switzerland's top beach volleyballers, although Addiechi points out that the reverse is also true with many of those players becoming involved in the sport precisely because of the Tour.
Three-time European champions Paul and Martin Laciga will be flying the flag for Switzerland this weekend along with reigning European champions Sascha Heyer and Markus Egger and women's European vice-champions Simone Kuhn and Nicole Schnyder-Benôit.
Argentinean world champions Mariano Baracetti and Martin Conde will be among the international stars hoping to deny the Swiss victory on their home, albeit imported, sand.
Following the opening weekend in Zurich, the Swiss Beach Tour moves on to Basel, Geneva, Locarno, Appenzell and Lucerne before culminating in the spectacular Swiss championships, played directly in front of the national parliament in Bern.
by Mark Ledsom, Zurich