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Female Volleyball Players Can Cover Up For Olympics

Brazil's Larissa Franca (right) cleans the feet of teammate Juliana Silva as they celebrate a point during a women's beach volleyball match against Cuba at the Pan American Games in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, in October 2011.
Ariana Cubillos

Shorts and long-sleeved tops will be OK at the London Olympics' beach volleyball tournament.

That's what the International Volleyball Federation (FIVB) has decided: Women won't have to wear the bikinis and bodysuits that have been the norm at previous Olympics.

"Some countries for religious and cultural reasons required more flexibility," FIVB spokesman Richard Baker told Reuters. "This has now been implemented for all FIVB tournaments. ... The decision just gives them [the athletes] that greater choice."

Women will also be allowed to wear headgear.

The AP reports that the modified rules allow shorts as long as 1.18 inches above the knee. The AP adds:

"Bikinis have been part of the wardrobe since beach volleyball became an Olympic medal event at the 1996 Atlanta Games. Players have typically opted to wear bodysuits in cold weather.

"Cultural and religious sensitivities have been brought into focus by changes to the Olympic entry format to encourage more nations to compete.

"Four years ago, qualification was based almost entirely on world rankings earned by competing in at least eight elite-level events. The Continental Cup competitions, which began in July 2010, now offer direct routes to the Olympics."

If you remember, last summer FIFA, the world soccer authority, sparked controversy when Iran was disqualified from the Olympics after players refused to participate in a match without their headscarves.

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Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.
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