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First game in Beijing important: Spanish basketball chief
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The first game at the Beijing Olympics will be important for Spanish basketballers, said Spanish Basketball Federation (FEB) President Jose Luis Saez on Wednesday.

"At the moment, however, what worries us the most is playing the first game. Once we get that one out of the way, then we can take it one game at a time and aim to go as far as possible," he told Xinhua.

Pau Gasol, Spanish basketball center, also a star player in LA Lakers, NBA


Pau Gasol, Spanish basketball center, also a star player in LA Lakers, NBA

He said both men's and women's teams are hopeful for medals.

"We are in a position where we will be giving all that we have in the hunt for a medal in both the men's and the women's competition," said Saez, admitting the girls would have to face tough rivals.

"It will be harder for the women, because the overall level of competition is very high and there are three difficult rivals in Russia, the USA and Australia," he said.

Spain's men's team crowned at World Champions in Japan in 2006 and won silver in last year's European Championships, held in Spain.

The women's team finished a credible sixth in the 2006 World Championships and will be looking to improve on that in Beijing.

The Spanish basketballers travel to Beijing with their morale sky high. The women booked their Olympic tickets in June, while the men have a 100 percent record in their warm-up matches.

Nevertheless, Saez preferred not to be overconfident, insisting in not drawing too many conclusions from triumphs in friendly games.

"The preparation games have gone well. The men have won six out of six. But we have to remember that they are preparation games and that no side is at their very best. We can use them as points of reference, but really that is all," he said.

The basketball team is only part of a Spanish Olympic selection that has been boosted by fine results in many different fields: tennis player Rafael Nadal looks unbeatable, cyclist Carlos Sastre won the Tour de France last weekend.

Saez believes that shows just how the Spaniards are hard to beat.

"We go to China as part of a Spanish Olympic team that has shown itself to be competitive in all events and in all sports. Everyone in our side and in the Spanish team is going to give everything," he said.

He stressed, however, the the Olympic spirit: the most important thing is being there and doing one's best.

"Sometimes that is not enough because sometimes there are teams that can beat you. But we are going to be as competitive as we can be," he said.

Saez said he had been impressed with the preparations made in China to host the Olympics.

"I was in China in November of last year and I went again this April and I think the way that the work has evolved in Beijing is very positive. The Chinese (Basketball) Federation has done as much as possible. We have always had very good relationships with the Chinese Federation and they are good friends of ours," he said.

Saez was disappointed at the decision of the U.S. basketball team to stay in a luxury hotel away from the Olympic Village.

Although Saez stressed he respected the Americans, he insisted it was something that the Spaniards would never do.

"What the USA has done is typical of them. I am not criticizing it. But we want all of our sporting people to stay in the normality of what is the Olympic concept in the Olympic village. It is not the first time that the USA has done this. I repeat that I respect their decision, but it is not something that we are going to do," he told Xinhua

(Xinhua News Agency July 31, 2008)

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