It’s a party at Horse Guards Parade. Kitschy dancers in beachwear, conga lines, the Macarena. Beer. The only things missing are Frankie and Annette.
And no group of fans is embracing this raucous nightly bash disguised as a world-class volleyball tournament like the Gibb family, the parents, brothers, sisters, nieces, in-laws, son and wife of Jake Gibb, one half of the only U.S. men’s team remaining in the tournament.
“They’re usually a pretty conservative bunch,” Gibb said after he and partner Sean Rosenthal won their round of 16 match against Russians Konstantin Semenov and Serguei Prokopiev. Gibb comes from a Mormon family and most of his family members don’t drink alcohol or, for the most part, attend sporting events half-naked and wearing sparkly wigs. “I dunno. I guess you get them to London and they go a little bit wacky.”
Gibb is the youngest of 11 children, and nine of his 10 siblings traveled to London to fill seats in the family section -- although they don’t use them much for sitting. Gibb’s twin brother, Coleman, who’s older by 30 minutes, showed up at Saturday’s game wearing jeans; a red, white and blue top hat; and body paint. His brother-in-law Kevin Ditty, who’s married to Gibb's sister Marali, was wearing face paint and a volleyball hat. To be clear: That’s an actual volleyball worn as a hat.
“People probably think we’re drunk,” said his sister Larali Miller, who opted for a fluffy red wig and a flag face decal. “But we’re just high on excitement.”
Larali’s the Ticketmaster of the family. Saturday morning, no one in the family had a ticket to that night’s match. After she worked her magic, 12 Gibbs were holding party tickets. Jake’s wife, Jane, also has been juggling tickets, as well as an 11-month-old son.
“She’s going to need a vacation after this,” Jake said.
His nieces, Shayla Gibb and Jenna Davis, who wore their USA T-shirts and red-and-white star sunglasses for Saturday night’s match, have become stars themselves, JumboTron regulars picked up nightly by the venue’s dance cam.
The venue has a dance cam.
“This is similar to what tournaments are like in America, but the energy here is just incredible,” said Byron Mickle, Jake’s brother-in-law. (He’s married to Valerie.) “The crowd, the music, the dancing, the atmosphere is just awesome.”
“The crowds here are just way more into it,” said brother John Gibb. “When the announcer says, ‘Feel free to sing along,’ people sing along. When they start a conga line, people participate. They’re not too cool to take part, like they would be at home.”
Until a month ago, not one member of the Gibb family had a plane ticket, hotel reservation or tickets to the events. But when Jake qualified for his second straight Olympics, the Gibb clan decided it wasn't going to miss seeing him play this time around and the mad scramble to book a two-week family trip for 32 began.
“It’s humbling, it’s amazing,” Jake Gibb said. “A few of them came to Beijing, but this time, they’ve got wigs on, their chests are painted. And my wife has been a champ, dealing with tickets and our baby boy. She is going to need some TLC when we get home.”
And possibly some paint remover.