By Aris Barkas/ email@example.com
After 1992 and the one and only Dream team, basketball is a hot ticket at the Olympics, as it was proved once again at London. So, the timing is perfect for FIBA Secretary General Patrick Baumann (and IOC member) to ask publicly for an expanded basketball tournaments at the Olympics.
In his FIBA.com interview he makes his point as clear as it can be: “We regularly discuss the fact that having 12 teams is not ideal for a team sport. Two groups of six teams, five games in the Preliminary Round – it makes the tournament very long. We support the principle of universality at the Olympics, but the consequence is that we don’t necessarily have the best teams competing. We’ve requested twice to have 16 teams. The IOC has rejected this both times for quota reasons, which is frustrating from our perspective. More countries want to qualify, but it is extremely difficult”.
IOC doesn’t want the Olympics to dominated by basketball and that’s why the idea of the revamped FIBA World Cup is gaining ground, even thought Baumann is trying to be diplomatic: “There are heated discussions about which is the prime event between the FIBA Basketball World Cup and the Olympic Basketball Tournament. It’s not about comparing the two. They have different values and we benefit from both. Certainly in terms of the sport aspect, the FIBA Basketball World Cup is more intense because the best teams are really there. But the Olympics represent something much bigger with its values and the fact that winning an Olympic medal is probably the dream of a lifetime for every athlete. We can’t refuse that”.
That’s why the idea of an age limit at the Olympics doesn’t appeal to him: “Within that context, getting 16 teams at the Olympics or having U23 players – as suggested by David Stern – it’s all part of the general discussion we’re having within the basketball family (and therefore also with the NBA). These ideas are on the table to reflect what is best for basketball in the next 20 years. There may be different opinions between the stakeholders, but we’re not afraid to put ideas on the table”.
The proposals of FIBA for the next Olympics will be basketball tournaments of 16 teams instead of 12 and the inclusion of 3X3 basketball as an Olympic sport.