Olympics: Basketball event first test for 2012 park

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The Independent Online

London's Olympic Park hosts its first tournament on Tuesday as six international basketball sides tip off to test out the basketball arena for the 2012 Games.

London is staging a series of test events this summer, a year before the Olympics get under way, to give their venues a dry run and allow organisers to iron out any problems before the Games begin next July.

The basketball arena is the fourth-largest venue on the park in Stratford, east London, measuring 35 metres (115 feet) high and 115 metres long.

With 12,000 seats, the white-clad structure is one of the largest ever temporary venues built for any Games.

However, only 3,000 seats will be available per session for the warm-up basketball tournament, with three matches per day. The first four days of the six-day event are sold out.

The round-robin tournament features Serbia, ranked eighth in the world, Australia (9th), China (10th), France (14th), Croatia (19th) and host nation Great Britain, ranked a lowly 56th, who should feature Chicago Bulls star Luol Deng in their ranks.

"Having our first test event on Olympic Park makes the Games seem even closer and excitement is building," said Debbie Jevans, the Games organising committee's director of sport.

"We are looking forward to hosting our first ever tournament in the Basketball Arena and testing our operations which will include transport into Olympic Park as well as the venue operations and of course the sporting field of play."

Patrick Baumann, secretary general of basketball's global governing body FIBA, said: "This invitational tournament will be a very interesting and competitive one, with six of the best teams in men's basketball. The Olympic Basketball Arena is a wonderful and world class venue."

Organisers are testing out not only the arena - including the experience for players, spectators, broadcasters, photographers and print journalists - but also transport to the site.

Construction of the arena was completed in June within the £43 million ($70 million, 50 million euro) budget.

Inside, the seats are in the black and orange colours of a basketball.

Outside, the frame of 20 steel arches has been wrapped in white fabric to form the canvas for an innovative lighting display. Some commentators say it resembles icing on a cake.

It will host the basketball up to the finals, which will be held at the former Millennium Dome. Officials then have 22 hours to get it ready to host the handball finals.

The venue will then host the wheelchair basketball and rugby competitions during the Paralympic Games.

After the Olympics, parts of it are expected to be reused or relocated elsewhere in Britain.

Rio de Janeiro hosts the next Olympic Games in 2016 and Richard Arnold, from London's Olympic Delivery Authority, said the venue might end up being shipped to Brazil.

"There is not a definitive plan, yet Rio has shown quite a bit of interest in having the fabric and the structure," he said, according to the BBC.

"All these elements have been developed so they can be reused."