Female beach volleyball players will have the option of wearing less revealing uniforms at the London Olympics in an attempt by the sport's governing body to respect the cultural beliefs of various countries. 

The International Volleyball Federation says it will allow shorts and sleeved tops at the Olympics, in addition to bikinis and body suits already permitted. 

The rule already applied to the five Continental Cup qualifiers for the Olympics involving 142 nations. Those continents include Africa, Asia Oceania, Europe, South America and The North, Central America and Caribbean Volleyball Confederation. 

"Many of these countries have religious and cultural requirements, so the uniform needed to be more flexible." FIVB spokesman Richard Baker told The Associated Press in a telephone interview on Tuesday. "Winners of the Continental Cups will qualify for the Olympics, so it has to be applied." 

The modified rule permits "shorts of a maximum length of [3 centimetres] above the knee, and sleeved or sleeveless tops." 

Including more cultures

Bikinis have been part of the wardrobe since beach volleyball became an Olympic medal event at the 1996 Atlanta Games. Players have typically opted to wear body suits in cold weather. 

Changes to the qualification format for the 24-team women's lineup in London also brought cultural sensitivities into focus by encouraging more nations to compete. 

The Continental Cup competitions, which began in July 2010, now offer direct routes to the Olympics. Four years ago, qualification was based almost entirely on world rankings earned by competing in at least eight elite-level events. 

The women's Olympic beach volleyball tournament will be played July 28-Aug. 12 in a stadium at Horse Guards Parade near Buckingham Palace. 

Shorts and sleeved tops are also now allowed in matches on the season-long World Tour circuit, which is dominated by players from Brazil, the United States and Europe. 

"We don't think we will see much change [in uniforms] on the World Tour," Baker said.