Paris Olympics could move basketball to remote venue after French NBA players concern over ceiling height

GENEVA — Most basketball games at the Paris Olympics could take place on a three-hour drive outside the French capital, a plan that was criticized by the sport’s governing body on Wednesday.

Paris organizers are struggling to find a suitable basketball venue for games ahead of the medal rounds at the 2024 Summer Games and are now considering using the Lille football stadium, some 210 kilometers from Paris . The original 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 do not believe that our athletes should be subject to the conditions that we currently have on the table,” Andreas Zagklis, secretary general of world basketball body FIBA, told Paris officials on Wednesday, noting “serious concerns “.

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 due to the presence of NBA and WNBA stars and the popularity of basketball in France.

Playing in Lille, located in the northeast near the Belgian border, would prevent players from staying in the athletes’ village in Paris or face three-hour travel times, Zagklis told a group meeting coordination of sports for the Summer Games in Lausanne.

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

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 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 keep the level of ambition as much as possible within our budget 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 million).

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 agreed it was “a very important sport” in his country.

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

The original plan was for the Stade de Lille 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 had been designated as the original basketball venue.

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