German beach volleyball stars Karla Borger and Julia Sude said this weekend they planned to boycott a tournament in Doha, Qatar next month because of a policy against competitors wearing bikinis — the common uniform for women’s beach volleyball players.
But the sport’s governing body, FIVB, said Tuesday there will be “no restrictions” against wearing bikinis during tournament play.
The Middle Eastern country is hosting the Beach Volleyball World Tour from March 8-12.
In a statement on Tuesday, the FIVB said it has consulted with the Qatar Volleyball Association.
“Following further discussions, the QVA has confirmed that there are no restrictions on female players wearing standard uniforms during the event in Doha, should they so wish,” it said in a statement.
The originally-planned boycott brought cultural differences to the forefront of the international athletic scene. Female players had been asked to wear shirts and long pants to compete. FIVB said the rule is “out of respect for the culture and traditions of the host country.”
But Sude and Borger had said that the athletes competing shouldn’t have to alter their uniforms.
“It is not about wearing little, it’s about not being able to do our job in our work clothes,” Sude told Sports and Business Mag. “We don’t want to go along with that.”
“We are there to do our job, but are being prevented from wearing our work clothes,” Borger told radio station Deutschlandfunk on Sunday. “This is really the only country and the only tournament where a government tells us how to do our job — we are criticising that.”
The FIVB said it had consulted with players in January before the decision was made to stage the women’s tournament.
“The FIVB believes strongly that women’s beach volleyball, as all sport, should be judged on performance and effort, and not on uniform,” it said. “Therefore, during the competition in Doha, should players request to wear the standard uniform, they will be free to do so. The FIVB and QVA are united in their commitment to host a welcoming, safe and inclusive event that allows athletes to compete at their very best.”
The Qatar volleyball association clarified that “we are not making any demand on what athletes should wear at the event,” and that the organization was “committed to ensuring that all athletes are made to feel welcome and comfortable at next month’s event.”
Borger said the extreme heat often experienced in Qatar makes the bikinis a necessity.
There have been exceptions for athletes made by Qatar in the past, too. In 2019, women’s track and field athletes at the World Athletics Championships wore their usual uniform. And at the ANOC World Beach Games in 2019, volleyball players were allowed to compete in bikinis.
Borger also questioned the premise of holding an athletic competition in Qatar, considering a track record of alleged human rights violations and discriminatory labor practices. The country is also set to host the World Cup next year.
“We are asking whether it’s necessary to hold a tournament there at all,” Borger said.
This article is based in part on wire service reports.