The organizers of the Paris 2024 Olympic Games (Cojop), in agreement with the International Basketball Federation (FIBA), decided on Thursday March 24 to no longer retain Hall 6 of the Porte de Versailles Exhibition Center in Paris as competition site for the preliminary phase of the Olympic basketball tournament.
The teams of the Paris 2024 Organizing Committee (Cojop) ensure that their decision is not linked to the revolt of French basketball players, led in particular by Evan Fournier for a week, but by technical considerations: the Porte de Versailles, renovated two years ago in the midst of the Covid pandemic, would not offer guarantees of brightness in line with the international standards of large basketball halls. It seemed too complicated to create lighting that met audiovisual broadcasting requirements without directly dazzling the players – or indirectly by reflection on the floor.
Difficult, however, not to see in the volte-face of Paris 2024 a response to the revolt of the stars of French basketball. They who are used to evolving in the largest halls in the world had little taste in mid-March of having to play in a hall which still hosted the donkey village of the Agricultural Show at the beginning of March. Question of prestige also: if all sports are equal at the Olympic Games, basketball – the king team sport at the Olympics – like athletics or swimming, attracts the greatest number of viewers.
“How can we accept to see basketball, the most popular collective sport at the Olympics, being sent to the exhibition center? Ceiling too low, room unsuitable”had mocked on Twitter Evan Fournier.
Isidore de Braize and I arriving in Hall 6 of the Parc expo for the first match of the Olympic Games @Paris2024. .… https://t.co/s4zs0gMSb2
Rudy Gobert, among the best pivots in the NBA – the North American basketball championship – had rebounded: “I’m not going to play in a room where I hit my head when I shoot, so it doesn’t make sense. » As for Nicolas Batum, author of a masterful dunk against Slovenia in the Olympic semi-final, he directly challenged the Paaris 2024 teams: “Are you really going to let the best team sport play in this place? I don’t know who is responsible but you have to do better for basketball! »
“Around the table next week”
However, the “officials” deny having yielded to the complaints of the stars of the orange ball, whom an elected official familiar with the matter takes for “whims” of millionaires. A member of Cojop recalls that the choice of Hall 6 had been made, in accordance with the criteria required by FIBA, in December 2020, after the organizers’ concept review which had resulted in the redefining the map of Olympic venues.
Since the end of the Tokyo Games, exchanges between Cojop and FIBA have been regular, he adds, in particular on the location of the stands, the bearing capacity of hall 6 – under which a car park is built – the problems of humidity related to air conditioning and the issue of light.
The organizers of Paris 2024 have submitted to the international basketball body the results of the expertise carried out on these various technical constraints, the first three responding positively to international standards.
Only the lighting report, submitted to FIBA on March 18, two days after the blue basketball players spoke, showed values slightly above the norm. As in Rio in 2016 of course, but in Brazil, the basketball hall had a higher ceiling (9 m for hall 6, however in accordance with the minimum 7 m required by FIBA).
It now remains to find a new base for basketball. Jean-Philippe Gatien, the director of sports within Paris 2024, had assured The Team in mid-March that there was “no plan B”, nor of “relocation” possible – Orléans had recently argued its geographical proximity to Paris to host the preliminary Olympic tournament.
The organizers assure that they will put themselves ” from next week “ around the table with FIBA, the International Olympic Committee and the teams of the city of Paris to find an alternative. The possibilities are limited: the Arena under construction at the Porte de la Chapelle? The Paris-Bercy omnisports center – which will already host basketball from the quarter-finals –, theater of artistic gymnastics? Another place?
If they are not yet in the “money time”, the organizers would have done well without such a setback, which risks, once again, forcing them to review the map of sites.