|The new sand brought a touch of summer to the City of London even if the weather didn't [GALLO/GETTY]
Under a leaden sky and a light London drizzle, 2012 Olympic organisers began their task of bringing the spirit of Bondi Beach and Copacabana to the heart of the British capital on Thursday.
The first of 120 truckloads, a total 2,274 tons, of finest Surrey sand was dumped on Horse Guards Parade to create temporary competition and practice courts for a beach volleyball test event with one year to go to the real thing.
If Bondi, the location for the event at the 2000 Sydney Olympics, seemed far away - with streams of tourists thronging Trafalgar Square and ducks bobbing on the lake in St. James's Park - the Games are ticking ever closer.
"This is what it's all about, we're starting to get our hands dirty and make everything happen," beamed LOCOG volleyball manager Bob Clarke.
"We've done a lot of planning to get to this stage and I'm really excited. We're the most iconic venue of the Games, in my opinion."
The test event, a women's international, will be held from August 9-14 with 24 teams including world number one ranked pairing Jennifer Kessy and April Ross from the United States.
|The setting for the 2000 Olympic Games volleyball competition at Bondi Beach, Sydney [GALLO/GETTY]
"It's about getting the court right, the field of play and the technology for the results timing and scoring," Clarke told Reuters.
"We need to test that and we need to test our workforce, the line judges, the score keepers, everybody that causes that field of play to work, the ball retrievers, court rakers.
"This is their opportunity to familiarise themselves with the venue and what their tasks will be at Games time."
The backdrop will be Buckingham Palace in the distance, with government buildings and the Prime Minister's residence of 10 Downing Street close by.
While the temporary facility will seat just 1,500, the Olympic venue will be a 15,000 seater - the equivalent of
dropping Wimbledon's Centre Court on to a parade ground used normally for daily Changing of the Guard ceremonies.
After the test event, the sand will be carted off and reused by Volleyball England at training venues around Britain.
"There's certain things we are testing. What we are not trying to show is how exactly we are going to do it at Games time," said Jeff Keas of architects Populous.
"We're not giving away too much early, we're still saving back some of the special things."