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June 9, 2022

FIBA rejects proposal to stage Paris 2024 matches in Lille

FIBA, basketball’s global governing body, has firmly rejected a proposal by organizers of the Paris 2024 Olympic to stage some matches during the tournament at the Pierre-Mauroy Stadium in Lille as the search for a new venue continues.

By Susan Lingeswaran

FIBA, basketball’s global governing body, has firmly rejected a proposal by organizers of the Paris 2024 Olympics to stage some matches during the tournament at the Pierre-Mauroy Stadium in Lille as the search for a new venue continues.

Speaking at the Association of Summer Olympic International Federations (ASOIF) general assembly in Lausanne, Switzerland, yesterday (May 8), FIBA secretary general Andreas Zagklis said he had “serious concerns” with potentially staging matches at the multi-purpose stadium which sits 225km outside Paris.

The Paris 2024 organizing committee has struggled to find a suitable venue for the preliminary rounds of the men’s and women’s competitions after dropping plans to stage matches at the Arena Paris Sud.

Paris 2024 earmarked Hall 6 of the Arena Paris Sud at Porte de Versailles exhibition center as the host for sport’s early rounds back in 2020 in line with the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) vision of using existing or temporary facilities for 95% of the games’ events.

However, the choice was heavily criticized, with concerns raised over the venue’s low ceiling, dim lighting, and lack of ventilation.

The committee has since suggested staging the rounds at the Pierre-Mouroy Stadium in Lille in a brief swap with handball before the competitions head to the Paris-Bercy Arena following the conclusion of the gymnastics events.

The 50,000-seat stadium in Lille has been the home ground of French Ligue 1 club LOSC Lille since 2011 and hosted the final phase of the EuroBasket competition in 2015. It features a retractable roof and floor, allowing it to be converted into a 30,000-seat indoor venue easily.

However, Zagklis said the suggestion for a six-hour round trip for players traveling from Paris’ Olympic Village to the Lille stadium for matches and back was not acceptable.

He said: “We don’t feel that our athletes should be subject to the conditions we currently have on the table.

“I am referring to the fact that the tournament must be held in Paris, in the Olympic Village, with a maximum transit of one hour, not three, and the venues must provide necessary safety conditions, air-conditioning and allow athletes to recover from the games and have timely meals.

“We want to help and of course boost the ticket income, but we feel some basic conditions for our players like in all previous Olympics should be respected since the players’ experience is itself in the core of the Games.

“We believe our concerns are fair and that we can work together to reduce the players’ serious concerns about their participation in the Paris Olympics.”

Responding to Zagklis’ comments, Paris 2024 organizing committee president Tony Estanguet acknowledged the situation was difficult, adding: “We have to find solutions to maintain the level of ambition as much as we can with our budgetary limits.”

He added: “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 must find collective solutions, acceptable for you in the first place, but at the same time for the stakeholders of the organization, as well as the public opinion.”

Francesco Ricci Bitti, ASOIF president, meanwhile, said: “I believe that there will be a compromise and the IOC will play the role of arbiter if there is no solution.

“I understand both positions, but at the end of the story, the IOC will take the lead and suggest what kind of solutions will be used for these Games. Very quickly because it is already very late.”

Speaking later at a press conference, ASOIF executive director Andrew Ryan said: “We’re in a position again at the Games, three in a row, where financial constraints come into play.

“Therefore, we’re of course trying to minimize any expenditure on new venues or even temporary venues which can be costly. It’s a matter of negotiating between the federations where they can be housed in existing facilities.

“I’m sure the facilities we end up with will be absolutely excellent. It’s more about where they are so I cannot really see how it would impact participation by top athletes.”

Paris was awarded the 2024 Olympics in 2017, with LA taking the 2028 games as part of an agreement. It will be the third time the French capital has hosted the Olympic Games and exactly 100 years since it last did, in 1924.

The Paris 2024 Olympic Games are scheduled to be held between July 26 and August 11.

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