FIBA resists Paris Olympics plan for remote basketball venue

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GENEVA — Most basketball games at the Paris Olympics could take place for three hours outside the host city, a plan criticized on Wednesday by the sport’s governing body which is trying to secure a better deal for the players.

Paris organizers have struggled to agree on a suitable basketball venue for games ahead of the medal rounds at the 2024 Summer Games, and the latest proposal is the Lille football stadium – around 210 kilometers from Paris.

The previous plan was to use an arena in the capital, but that venue was scrapped in March amid a backlash from French NBA players who said the ceiling was too low for basketball.

“We don’t believe our athletes should be subject to the conditions we currently have on the table,” Andreas Zagklis, general secretary of basketball world body FIBA, told Paris officials on Wednesday, noting “serious concerns and citing three sitemap changes. in five years.

If Lille is approved, the men’s and women’s basketball tournament would not come to Paris until the last days of July 26-August. 11 Olympic Games. The sport is expected to be among the biggest draws at the Paris Games to see NBA and WNBA stars.

Playing in Lille, a northeastern city close to the border with Belgium, would prevent players from staying in the athletes’ village in Paris or face three-hour travel times, Zagklis told a meeting of the Sports Coordination Group for the Summer Games in Lausanne.

The Lille stadium, named after the city’s former mayor Pierre Mauroy, has a retractable roof and has previously hosted European football and basketball championship matches, as well as the Davis Cup final of tennis.

However, Zagklis wondered if the stadium could guarantee “a safe playing field during the hottest days of summer and conditions to support athletes’ recovery and meals”.

“We believe that certain basic conditions for our players, as in all previous Olympics, must be met,” he said.

At the Tokyo Olympics last year, all basketball games were played at the Saitama Super Arena where the men’s and women’s gold medals were won by the United States, featuring players from the NBA such as Kevin Durant and Jayson Tatum and WNBA stars like Sue Bird and Brittney Griner. .

Responding to the FIBA ​​official, Paris Organizing Committee President Tony Estanguet acknowledged “we haven’t been in an easy situation with all the different crises” around the world.

“We need to find solutions to maintain the level of ambition as much as possible with our budgetary limits,” said Estanguet, a three-time Olympic gold medalist in canoeing.

He repeatedly used the word “optimize” in reference to efficient spending within a Parisian budget set at 4 billion euros ($4.3 billion).

Zagklis previously noted that basketball was “happy to fill the big halls” and generate ticket revenue for Paris organizers.

France won men’s silver and women’s bronze in basketball in Tokyo, and Estanguet acknowledged it was “a very important sport” in his country.

The basketball medal games will be played in the 15,000 capacity Arena Paris-Bercy, which hosts gymnastics during the first week of the Olympics.

The original plan was for the Lille stadium to host handball matches, with France being the defending champions for both men and women. If basketball moves to Lille, handball could move to Parc des Expositions in Paris, which was previously designated as the basketball venue.

Leaders of the Summer Games group, known as ASOIF, later suggested at a press conference that the International Olympic Committee could broker a solution that was needed quickly.

ASOIF President Francesco Ricci Bitti said the Paris organizers were in a “different economic context than a few years ago”, although FIBA’s position is “understandable.. . especially because it is a professional sport” which had to be careful not to lose its athletes. Support.

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