Sunday, August 26, 2007
A little math to get the discussion started.
For men's basketball at the 2008 Olympics, there are two berths each for the Americas and Europe. The Americas region consists of 28 countries total with 10 competing in the Tournament of the Americas for the two berths. In Europe, there are some 49(+) countries with 16 competing in Eurobasket 2007 to gain the two berths.
Oceania (Australia), Africa (Angola) and Asia (Iran) each send only one rep through the regional qualifiers. Asia, by the fact that China will play host, gets an extra berth and Europe, via reigning world champion Spain, gets its second berth.
Three bids are left to be determined at a tournament to be staged next summer, July 7-13th. That tourney is the brainchild of FIBA as they will seek rights fees, promoter guarantees and lucrative TV and media rights for staging the new (and improved) concept.
The teams that finish as runners-up in their respective regional tourneys will get invites to the FIBA pre-Olympic qualifying tournament, to be held next July at a site to be determined. (A site in Europe seems to make the most sense, as four of the 12 teams will be from Europe and their fans will certainly support the event).
As noted, this is the first time this system is being utilized. In prior years, the number of teams was determined by the success of the entire region at the previous major tourney. So, I remember when China upset Spain in the final preliminary round game at the '94 World Championship in Hamilton, Canada, it cost Europe an extra slot for a team at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta.
Another example was New Zealand's fourth place finish at the 2002 Worlds which helped New Zealand and Australia both qualify for the 2004 Athens Olympic Games.
The viewpoint; The pre-olympic tourney is a great marketing idea but will take its toll on the teams competing on the basketball side. The three teams that qualify will need to train and prepare, then travel to the site of the pre-Olympic tournament. From there, they will have the decision to return home for a brief break, then fly to Beijing for the Olympics. Logistics will be tough and the three teams will be exhausted. They will, however, have some confidence and momentum leading up to the Olympic Games. The pre-Olympic tournament will be intense preparation, unlike the many 'friendlies' staged prior to big championships.
The drawback will be the time zone issue, which might make FIBA consider staging the tournament in the likes of Seoul and Japan. (Japan, by way of its eighth place finish in the zone qualifier just completed, does not have a chance for the pre-olympic event).
I would consider adding a third qualifying bid to Europe to make up the difference of the number of countries (49+) competing for berths and limit the pre-olympic qualifying tourney to provide for two (not three) berths.