LONDON, July 29 (Reuters) - Noel Coward once famously sang “Mad Dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun.”
At the Olympic beach volleyball stadium you could add “... and in the pouring rain too”.
No-one left their seats on Sunday as waves of rain drenched 15,000 spectators on Horse Guards Parade in the heart of London.
Up went the umbrellas. Stoicism reigned supreme. It was like a typical summer’s day at Wimbledon. Time to get out the thermos full of tea.
The British love to moan about the weather, and have plenty of ammunition for it, especially this year, the wettest and worst summer for a century.
But nothing would dampen their spirits. If bronzed Australians, Americans and Brazilians were ready to don their bikinis to play in the rain, then the crowd felt duty-bound to go singing in it.
But what a surreal atmosphere.
The rain lashed down as loudspeakers blared out The Beach Boys, Lady Gaga and Queen. Scantily clad dancers whirled suggestively around the sodden sand during each break.
The announcer had to work overtime to loosen those British stiff upper lips.
““They are watching live in Sydney. They are cheering you in Berlin. We are live around the planet,” he told the rain-sodden fans.
Surfers at Bondi Beach, the setting for the Sydney Olympics tournament back in 2000, must have chuckled at the sight of the Australian pair Louise Bawden and Becchara Palmer doing battle in the rain.
For body-conscious beauties parading on Copacabana Beach - Rio is the site for the next Olympics in 2016 - this is not the weather for a sport that is all about sunshine and skimpy clothing.
But Australia’s Bawden didn’t bat an eyelid.
Asked if she would prefer to be playing on Bondi, she said:“ “Bring on the bad weather, bring on the heat and bring on the rain. It doesn’t really matter for us. We like it when it’s tough.”
The London setting is just a stone’s throw from Prime Minister David Cameron’s Downing Street residence and up the road from Buckingham Palace.
The announcer chirpily announced: “We have just been told the Prime Minister is trying to have his afternoon nap. So could we please turn down the noise.”
The typically unpredictable weather then delivered a last surprise when British pair Zara Dampney and Shauna Mullin landed a win for the home crowd over Canadians Annie Martin and Marie-Andree Lessard in a late burst of evening sunshine.
Mullin was ready for anything.
““We play on the world tour. We go to Norway. We were in Berlin a couple of weeks ago where there was torrential rain - worse than England.”
Still pumped up after her victory, Dampney - the perfect name for a rain-soaked tournament - said:
““Whatever the weatherman chucks at us, we just have to deal with it.” (Editing by Sonya Hepinstall)