Between the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) and the Organizing Committee for the 2024 Olympics, there is an impasse, more than ever. The General Assembly of the Association of International Federations of Summer Olympic Sports (ASOIF), which was held on Wednesday in Lausanne, gave rise to a pass of arms which confirmed the tensions between the two bodies.
In question: the 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 international Olympic vice-champions – Evan Fournier, Rudy Gobert in particular -, the orange ball has since been without home. Meetings between FIBA and OCOG since then have not been successful, some have even been cancelled.
Lille, the number one option for the OCOG
The OCOG wishes to install basketball at the Pierre-Mauroy stadium in Lille (25,000 seats), which hosted the final phase of Eurobasket 2015 and is to host handball in 2024. FIBA still refuses this option and is keen to be at the heart of the event, therefore hosted in Paris.
“We respectfully submit our concern, FIBA Secretary General Andreas Zagklis politely explained before taking out the foil for the first skirmishes. We respect the fact that today it is no longer necessarily possible for the organization to offer the environment equivalent to the standard of the World Championships, which FIBA does during the World Cup. We understand the importance of the experience of the Games – opening ceremony, Village… – the world’s number one sporting event, organized in one of the most beautiful cities in the world. »
“Minimum conditions, as in previous Olympics, should be respected for our athletes”
“But we believe that minimum conditions for our players – not those on the table currently -, as in previous Olympics, should be respected. I am talking about being able to be accommodated in Paris, at the Village, of being located one hour from the Olympic sites, not three, of a site that meets the technical criteria of our discipline, which guarantees a safe floor (reference to the concern for air conditioning and humidity in hall 6, which could also arise in Lille), on the hottest days of summer. »
Olympics without NBA superstars?
Zagklis ended his speech by brandishing – between the usual polite expressions – a still abstract, but serious threat: that of the possibility of an absence of the NBA superstars at the Games.
“Our request is reasonable. By working together, we will be able to resolve this concern about the participation of the best basketball players on the planet in the Paris Games. » Could we come to such an extreme situation? Evan Fournier had mentioned the possibility in these columns as early as March 16, when the controversy broke out – “We are not immune to franchises, when they understand, putting pressure on their players not to go there” -. The NBA, for the time being, is following the debates behind the scenes and has not adopted an official position.
“Everyone would like to play at the foot of the Eiffel Tower”
So many arguments to which Tony Estanguet, 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. “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. But we have to adapt, to maintain the ambition, in accordance with our budgetary limits. This is why we are studying the best compromise together. I appreciate your efforts to get to where we are today. The challenges we will still face are probably not just about basketball. 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. »
“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 the search for a Parisian site): “We are also here to maintain a balance between 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. »
” At the end, was to declare the president of ASOIF Francesco Ricci Bitti, I believe 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. »
“Both parties work togethercommented an IOC spokesperson interviewed by L’Équipe. Several constructive sessions have taken place over the past few weeks. The objective is to find a satisfactory solution on the technical level but also in terms of the experience of the participants. We have no doubt, given the combined skills of Paris 2024 and FIBA, that this will soon be the case. »
Between the power of basketball and the NBA on the one hand, the virtuous economic model of Paris 2024 on the other, the IOC would above all be caught in the crossfire if it had to settle the dispute.