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How the Egyptian Beach Volleyball Team Made History at the Rio Olympics

It is the first Egyptian female beach volleyball team to participate at the Olympics. But they made history for other reasons, too.

They may have lost the match, but Egypt’s female beach volleyball team made history at the Rio Olympics. After the symmetric and highly metaphorical image of one of the players wearing a hijab and a burkini as she faces off against her German counterpart in a bikini swimsuit went viral, all eyes were set on the Egyptian national team.

Their attire, which is a common sight in Muslim-majority countries like Egypt, raised eyebrows in the international cyberspace, as the Egyptian team marked a stark contrast to what the sport has become known for since it was added to the Olympic bill, pushing viewers to focus on something other than the player’s bikinis.

 “Women's beach volleyball is one of those much talked about, highly anticipated events - usually for all the wrong reasons,” the site reads. “Press conferences are often filled with bikini-focussed questions rather than talk of medal hopes or team strategies.”

Egypt’s power team, the first Egyptian women's volleyball team to compete at the Olympics, are unintentionally allowing other players who reject objectification and would rather opt out of skimpy swimsuits, to have that option.  

According to the Olympics’ guidelines up to 2012, female beach volleyball players were allowed to wear a one-piece bathing suit or a bikini with a maximum side width of 7cm. It was only after the London Olympics in 2012 that the International Volleyball Federation's (FIVB) uniform code became more lax to catch up with the diverse cultural and religious beliefs of international players.

Now, there are other choices.