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The organiser of a beach volleyball tournament in Qatar called a dispute over a dress code which would have banned bikinis “propaganda” as matches got underway in Doha on Monday.

Qatar had faced criticism from some players last month after the International Volleyball Federation updated its official dress code to require women wear a “short sleeve t-shirt… and wear knee-long sports shorts”.

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Germany’s Karla Borger and Julia Sude said they would skip the FIVB World Tour competition in the conservative Muslim nation over the apparent ban on bikinis.

However the FIVB subsequently said that the Qatari organisers gave a**urances that there were “no restrictions on female players wearing standard uniforms” and the competition between bikini-wearing athletes began on Monday, AFP correspondents saw.

“Here we have some traditional ways as a Muslim country,” said tournament general coordinator Mohammed Salem al-Kuwari.

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“We just discussed with the FIVB if we can have (for) the players during this time, especially when it’s cold in the evening… a right to wear the long sleeves and also trousers that stretch.

“The women’s committee in beach volleyball made (the decision) between them.”

Kuwari said there had been no restrictions at the 2019 ANOC World Beach Games which were also held in Qatar.

“We hosted a tournament before and nobody was forced anyone to wear anything, for example the ANOC (beach) games. Some teams wore long sleeves, some didn’t,” he said.

“Some media, some people for another purpose, they made propaganda for that, but it’s not the truth totally… (we have) not forced for anyone to do anything against FIVB rules,” he added.

Qatar has a succesful national men’s volleyball team but no women’s equivalent although women do play in a domestic league.

“Since we won the hosting (rights) of the 2030 Asian games here, we have a plan now with the young mini girls (for) a Qatari national team… to represent Qatar,” said Kuwari.

Russia’s Natalia Mikhalchenkova, a member of the tournament organising committee who has played in Qatar domestically for two years, said of the players who decided to boycott Doha that it was “their loss”.

“It’s about volleyball, not bikinis,” she added.

The tournament is being held without fans amid tight coronavirus prevention measures including mandatory masks for non-players and the use of a compulsory contact tracing app.

“During this pandemic, for one year now, there has been no FIVB tournament” until now, said Kuwari, a former member of the Qatar national men’s team.

“Everybody is happy that the tournament is back again this Olympic year.”

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