The General Assembly of the Association of International Summer Olympic Sports Federations (ASOIF), which has been taking place since Wednesday morning in Lausanne, gave rise to a skirmish between the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) and the Paris 2024 Olympics Organizing Committee.
In question: the still unresolved problem of the place where the first week of basketball will be held during the Olympiad. Initially programmed in the narrow and low ceiling hall 6 of the Parc des Expositions at the Porte de Versailles, giving rise to an outcry from the authorities and international Olympic vice-champions, like Evan Fournier or Rudy Gobert, the orange ball has since been homeless. The few meetings between FIBA and OCOG since then have not been successful, some have even been cancelled.
Lille, the number one option for the OCOG
Several pieces of information thus emerged from public exchanges during the ASOIF GA. First, the confirmation that the OCOG seems to want to install basketball at the Pierre-Mauroy stadium in Lille (25,000 seats in a collective sport configuration), which hosted the final phase of Eurobasket 2015 and must for the moment be the host of handball in 2024. Secondly, the firm disagreement of the International Federation, which wants to be at the heart of the event, in particular geographically, therefore hosted in Paris itself.
In any case, this is what we understand through the words of Andreas Zagklis, Secretary General of FIBA. “We respectfully submit our concern, he explained politely, before taking out the foil for the first skirmishes. Without focusing on wheelchair basketball and 3×3, which have lost 30% of their quota so that their discipline can be held in one place, I will mention our main discipline, 5×5 basketball, which has shown great flexibility to assist the host city in its objective of delivering sustainable Olympics. We respect the fact that today it is no longer necessarily possible for the Olympic Games to offer the environment equivalent to the standard, for example, of the World Championships, which FIBA does during the World Cup . We talk about the experience of the Games, the world’s number one sporting event – opening ceremony, Village… -, in one of the most beautiful cities in the world. We understand that. »
“Minimum conditions, as in previous Olympics, should be respected for our athletes”
“Having said that, we don’t think our athletes should be subject to the conditions on the table at this hour, resumes the Greek aedile. I’m talking about the fact of being able to stay in Paris, in the Village, of being located one hour maximum from the Olympic sites, not three hours, of having access to a site which meets the technical criteria for our discipline, for example which guarantees that the parquet floor is safe (referring to the concern for air conditioning and humidity which was a problem in hall 6, but could also be raised in Lille), particularly on the hottest days of summer. We are also thinking about recovery… We are happy to be able to fill large Olympic venues, which will help Paris 2024 to generate a lot of ticketing revenue, but we think that minimum conditions for our players, like during the Olympic Games precedents, should be respected. »
Olympics without NBA players?
Zagklis ended his speech by brandishing – between the usual polite formulas – a threat that is still abstract, but quite serious: that of the possibility of the absence of the game’s superstars at the Games.
“We are convinced that our request is reasonable and that by working together, we will manage to erase these concerns, which relate to the participation of the best basketball players on the planet in the Paris Games. » It is too early to say whether we could come to this extreme. But several players in the field have confirmed their fears to us, convinced that sub-optimal conditions – especially if the NBA considers that there is an increased risk of injury – will encourage franchises and managers to put pressure on their players not to surrender. in Paris.
“Everyone would like to play at the foot of the Eiffel Tower”
Arguments to which Tony Estanguet, the president of Paris 2024, opposed, between two kindnesses and two yellow smiles, a cold face, returning, at least for the time being, the shuttlecock to the FIBA camp. “We have not been in an easy situation with all the crises that we have known. Everyone would like to play in the center of Paris, the best arena, at the foot of the Eiffel Tower. I respect your concerns. I can guarantee you that basketball is important and popular in France. We wish him the best success. But we have to adapt, find solutions to maintain the level of ambition, in accordance with our budgetary limits. This is why we are studying the best compromise together. It’s not easy for you, and I appreciate the effort you’ve already made in the recent past to get to where we are today. We still have challenges to overcome, which probably don’t only concern basketball. We must be flexible, find collective solutions that are acceptable to you in the first place, but at the same time to all the stakeholders in the organization of the Games, as well as public opinion. »
“You can count on us to do the best we can,” he added, before a conclusion that sounded like an end of inadmissibility (at least concerning a renunciation of the Lille hypothesis): “We are also here to try to maintain a balance between the sports, and we want to offer the French public something ambitious in terms of capacity for basketball. This is an element that we take into consideration in this reflection. » Translation: the two parties are still at an impasse.
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