British team on court when basketball begins Park life

It will fall to the basketballers of Australia and China to launch the first competitive event in the Olympic Park when they play the opening game in the London International Basketball Invitational this afternoon, the latest test event for next year's Games.

For the first time, spectators will be allowed into the Park itself to watch five of the world's best teams and Great Britain, who have not taken part in an Olympics since 1948, compete in a round-robin competition in the 12,000-capacity venue. "It feels like I'm dreaming," said Drew Sullivan, the Great Britain captain, as he gazed around the basketball arena after practice yesterday. "Some of the places we have played... it's been a long journey."

Sullivan of the Mersey Tigers is one of only two home-based players in the British squad, with the rest scattered across the globe. Later in this tournament Luol Deng – of the Chicago Bulls and Barack Obama's favourite player – will feature in a British vest, although he will not take part in this evening's opening match against France, having only just joined up with the squad.

Deng, who grew up in London after his family fled Sudan, is by some margin the squad's stellar name but with players from the tough Spanish league and others based in the US, the British team has improved dramatically since 2006 when coach Chris Finch had six players at his first training session.

They are still ranked only 56 in the world but later this month will be in Lithuania to contest their second successive Eurobasket, the continental championship for which they had never previously qualified. This week they play France, ranked 14th and silver medallists in 2000, three Beijing quarter-finalists in Australia, China and Croatia, and Serbia, ranked eighth in the world. Australia and China are also in the world top 10.

Finch, who is an assistant coach with Houston Rockets in the NBA as well as being Britain's head coach, said: "It is a huge opportunity. You could not ask for better preparation."

Finch described the Olympics as a "rallying call" for his sport in this country, where participation levels remain low. FIBA, the sport's world governing body, only granted Britain a host place in the Games once they were convinced the team could be competitive and that there was a commitment to fostering the sport in this country beyond 2012.

Suggested Topics
News
election 2015The 10 best quotes of the campaign
News
A caravan being used as a polling station in Ford near Salisbury, during the 2010 election
election 2015The Independent's guide to get you through polling day
News
people
Voices
David Blunkett joins the Labour candidate for Redcar Anna Turley on a campaigning visit last month
voicesWhat I learnt from my years in government, by the former Home Secretary David Blunkett
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: ‘We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon’, says Ed Balls

'We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon'

In an exclusive interview, Ed Balls says he won't negotiate his first Budget with SNP MPs - even if Labour need their votes to secure its passage
VE Day 70th anniversary: How ordinary Britons celebrated the end of war in Europe

How ordinary Britons celebrated VE Day

Our perception of VE Day usually involves crowds of giddy Britons casting off the shackles of war with gay abandon. The truth was more nuanced
They came in with William Caxton's printing press, but typefaces still matter in the digital age

Typefaces still matter in the digital age

A new typeface once took years to create, now thousands are available at the click of a drop-down menu. So why do most of us still rely on the old classics, asks Meg Carter?
Discovery of 'missing link' between the two main life-forms on Earth could explain evolution of animals, say scientists

'Missing link' between Earth's two life-forms found

New microbial species tells us something about our dark past, say scientists
The Pan Am Experience is a 'flight' back to the 1970s that never takes off - at least, not literally

Pan Am Experience: A 'flight' back to the 70s

Tim Walker checks in and checks out a four-hour journey with a difference
Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics - it's everywhere in the animal world

Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics

Voting, mutual back-scratching, coups and charismatic leaders - it's everywhere in the animal world
Crisp sales are in decline - but this tasty trivia might tempt back the turncoats

Crisp sales are in decline

As a nation we're filling up on popcorn and pitta chips and forsaking their potato-based predecessors
Ronald McDonald the muse? Why Banksy, Ron English and Keith Coventry are lovin' Maccy D's

Ronald McDonald the muse

A new wave of artists is taking inspiration from the fast food chain
13 best picnic blankets

13 best picnic blankets

Dine al fresco without the grass stains and damp bottoms with something from our pick of picnic rugs
Barcelona 3 Bayern Munich 0 player ratings: Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?

Barcelona vs Bayern Munich player ratings

Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?
Martin Guptill: Explosive New Zealand batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Explosive batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Martin Guptill has smashed early runs for Derbyshire and tells Richard Edwards to expect more from the 'freakish' Brendon McCullum and his buoyant team during their tour of England
General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'