SPORTS fans looking for autumn action in the Capital would probably rank the sun-kissed pursuit of beach volleyball at the bottom of their wish list.
But organisers of a top Olympics qualification tournament want to change that by holding it on the chilly sands of Portobello Beach.
Next month’s CEV Beach Continental Cup second round will see men’s and women’s teams from Slovakia, Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland, England and Scotland converge on the town, where they will spike, set and dig in a bid to qualify for the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro.
It will be the first time an international qualifier is held in Scotland, with organisers hoping the meet proves a game-changer as they strive to find players capable of following in the footsteps of Edinburgh’s Shauna Mullin, who played for Team GB at the London 2012 Olympics.
Tournament director Martyn Johnstone, competitions and performances officer at the Scottish Volleyball Association, said: “Everyone is extremely excited because we’re getting to showcase our sport in our own country.
“We’re very confident our players will qualify from this round, after which they will take on the big guns of Europe.”
He admitted he faced a scramble to bring the cup to Scotland after an initial move to hold it in Glasgow
foundered because of financial problems.
However, he said Portobello would provide the perfect backdrop thanks to its stunning beach and enthusiastic locals, with up to 400 spectators expected to cheer the teams from temporary stands.
“We had asked Glasgow on the back of the Commonwealth Games to host it after Scotland’s name was pulled out of a hat by the tournament organisers,” said Mr Johnstone.
“But there were funding issues as we would have had to have purpose-built courts put up in Glasgow, at George Square or Merchant City. We had also looked at Princes Street Gardens – somewhere where there is higher potential footfall.
“It just came down to the fact that we had no time and needed somewhere that was free and where we didn’t have to buy in any sand.”
He added: “Portobello will be a great host. By holding an event there, it’s showing that beach volleyball is a popular sport in Edinburgh and Scotland.”
News that the cup will be hosted in Edinburgh has also been welcomed by city chiefs.
Councillor Steve Cardownie, festivals and events champion, said: “The Continental Cup will be welcome news for Portobello and sports fans across the Capital, and as part of the qualifying process for Rio we may even welcome a future Olympic medal winner to our sands.”
The free event takes place between September 19 and 21.