LONDON The directions to the Olympics beach volleyball venue were forthright.Just go to Big Ben, I was told, and hang a right.Horse Guards Parade was once the tiltyard of the Palace of Whitehall the jousting lawn, in other words, for the monarchs of Britain, among them Henry VIII.For the past 400 years, its flat expanse has made it ideal for parades, military reviews, parking cars and, annually, the Queens birthday party.But it took some inspired and somewhat irreverent thinking to transform Horse Guards Parade into the Olympics beach volleyball site.The results have been devilishly spectacular. With 5,000 tons of sand trucked in, the 15,000-seat temporary stadium has made a fitting home for the sport thats been called the Summer Games moveable feast.Consider the neighborhood. Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament are, indeed, just down the street. Buckingham Palace sits at the end of the adjoining St.James Park Lake. And the British Prime Ministers residence at No. 10 Downing Street is so close, its become a running joke at the beach volleyball venue to hush the crowd, because the PM has an important meeting in the morning.The crowd instantly roars, of course. There goes the neighborhood.Inside are the now customary beach volleyball props dancing girls in bikinis, players in bikinis, non-stop announcer prattle and a whole lot of music turned up to 11.Very par-tay. And with golden medals to the winners even.The juxtaposition of sand, skin and historical architecture Old Admiralty, the former Royal Navy headquarters, hovers over the playing court easily makes this the London Olympics most engaging venue.Plus, every 15 minutes, you can hear the chimes of Big Ben.Did I mention the bikinis?No less than the Queens grandson, Prince Harry, was at Horse Guards Parade for the womens finals Wednesday night. Previous nights guests included London mayor Boris Johnson, Beatle Paul McCartney, Prince Albert of Monaco and, at one time or another, every member of the U.S. mens basketball team.Im guessing they heard about the bikinis.Hopefully, not lost in translationThey got on the Docklands train at Prince Regent station, and Zhang Baoxiang immediately pointed to the Olympic credential around my neck.Excuse me, he said in English. Are you an accredited journalist for the Olympic Games?I said yes. Zhang pointed to his empty chest.Not accredited, he announced with a lamenting shrug.His television network, Tianjin TV, has nevertheless sent him to the London Games to report on all things Chinese.Covering an Olympic Games with full media accreditation is difficult enough. We have signs, shuttle buses and, in most cases, ample seating at events to accommodate us.I cant imagine what its like having to report on the Games from the other side of the fence.Zhang estimated that there are 800 non-accredited journalists and photographers from China who are in London, trying to cover the Games.Many are making use of the London Media Centre, staffed by the city rather than official Olympics personnel.We do what we can, said Zhang, a TV cameraman.While we talked, his on-air talent, reporter Sun Lei, sat across the aisle, tapping the screen of her cell phone.Angry Birds?The ride to Central London was long, and Zhang never stopped asking questions. And as we neared my stop, he had a request.Would I agree to do a TV interview with him and Sun Lei?In English, of course, presumably with Chinese subtitles?And so, somewhere in northern China on Thursday, there are five minutes of yours truly giving diplomatic answers to such hot Chinese topics as badminton tanking and 16-year-old swimmers breaking world records.It wasnt my first Chinese rodeo. I knew what to say.The badminton tanking scandal: Not good, I said, but the Olympic tournament shouldnt be a round-robin, and there would be no reason to intentionally lose a match.The uproar over record-breaking swimmer Ye Shiwen: If she is taking performance-enhancing drugs, one day she will be caught, I told the one billion Chinese. Until then, I said, people shouldnt be accusing her just for swimming fast.Sun Leis third question, though, translated by Zhang, threw me for a mild loop. She asked me, more or less, why Western people dont trust the Chinese.Its wrong to make generalizations like that, I answered. But that question is better directed to a politician than a sports writer.From a sports standpoint, I told Zhang and Sun Lei, China could ease other nations concerns by training abroad more often. Had Ye Shiwens Olympic preparations not been made solely in China, she wouldnt have been such a fast surprise.The whole interview lasted maybe five minutes. Zhang thanked me profusely. At his request, he gave me a hug and a high five. China clearly is changing.I hope the subtitles were kind to me.I dont have time to answer a billion angry E-mails.Taking memoriesThe last strains of the Star Spangled Banner had ended. The final interviews had been done.But I could still hear sounds late Wednesday night coming from inside the beach volleyball venue at Horse Guards Parade.After 12 days of day and night beach volleyball competition, volunteers at the venue had removed their shoes and were playing an impromptu game of volleyball.On the same sand court, just 90 minutes before, Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh Jennings had won their third gold medal in as many Olympics.Now, the volunteers were enjoying their moment under the bright lights and in the shadow of the Old Admiralty.A worker who was emptying the trash bins nodded toward the laughing, volleyball-playing volunteers.Its what its all about, isnt it, mate? he said.With venue security relaxed, I was able to walk down to where the volunteers were playing. I took out an empty little pill box I was carrying, and I filled it with sand.Olympic sand. Misty May-Treanors and Kerri Walshs gold medal sand.Its what its all about, mate.