London’s Olympic Park welcomes basketball stars
London’s Olympic Park has successfully staged its first major event, with the London International Basketball Invitational coming to a close on Sunday, as preparations for next year’s Olympic Games continue.
The event was held from 16-21 August at the brand new Basketball Arena, which is one of the largest temporary venues ever built for the Games, and saw hosts Great Britain take on teams from Australia, China, Croatia, France and Serbia.
The six-team men’s tournament featured several stars from America’s leading NBA sides, including Britain’s Luol Deng and France’s Tony Parker and Joakim Noah. The French team won all five of its games and its star players were suitably impressed by the Olympic venue, where they will hope to compete in 2012.
“I think it's great,” said Parker, who plays for San Antonio Spurs in the NBA. “I can see the excitement in people's faces. Everybody is happy. London is going to be a great host so hopefully we can qualify and come back next year.”
"I would love to be back here next year,” added France centre Noah. “This week has been great with the competitive games, the atmosphere, the arena.”
The tournament forms part of the London Prepares series, which will see the British capital’s Olympic venues play host to several world-class sporting events in the build-up to London 2012. The series is an integral part of preparations for the Games, enabling the London 2012 Organising Committee (LOCOG) to test the sporting field of play at each venue, as well as the results, timing and scoring systems.
The events also allow LOCOG to see how its teams work together and how people move around the venues, and Joanna Sutherland, London 2012 Competition Manager for Basketball, was pleased with how the event went.
“The main thing is always that out on the court what everyone sees runs smoothly, that athletes and teams are happy and for all the things that need adjusting to be dealt with in the back of house,” she said.
“I'm really pleased with my team. This is the team I will have in place next year. They've all come to this event to work for the week and they're doing really well.
“The volunteers have been fantastic – really, really enthusiastic, really, really keen. They've been great. I'm really pleased and really confident of what they're capable of next year.”
London 2012 Basketball Arena at sunset