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FIBA ready to expand Olympic teams to 16
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The basketball tournament of the 2012 London Olympics will not only be a brand-new one with new rules and new court, but also might feature an expanded 16 teams to compete, top officials of the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) said on Friday.

The world basketball governing body will discuss the possibility of the expansion from the current 12 to 16, for both men's and women's competitions, at an executive board meeting in December, FIBA Secretary General Patrick Baumann said at a press conference held at the Wukesong Indoor Stadium.

It was an old issue after the 2004 Olympics when more berths were requested for the Olympic Games. The FIBA ignored it to maintain a 12-team pool at the Beijing Olympics.

"As a result of the success here (in Beijing), we think Basketball deserves a field of 16 teams. Some countries that are missing (the tournament) have a huge TV audience," Baumann said.

FIBA President Bob Elphinson said audience of the basketball games at Beijing almost double the number of the Athens.

"About 247,000 audience turned out to watch the basketball games at the 2004 Athens. In Beijing, we have 448,000, almost doubles the figure of Athens. About 27 million U.S. fans waked up early to watch the matchup between the hosts China and the United States on Aug. 10, and figure here in China is roughly 100 million. That's the most watched game in the Olympic basketball history," Elphinson said.

The FIBA introduced a Qualifying Tournament before the Olympics to decide eight berths, three from men's and five from women's, for the Beijing Games, with two men's and three women's qualifiers entering the quarter-finals in Beijing.

"The Qualifying Tournaments were great. We see teams have more chance to produce better results. But we still miss good teams like France, Brazil, Puerto Rico, Nigeria and etc., which didn't qualify for the Olympics. I think we would see the toughest 16 teams at the 2012 London Olympics," Baumann said.

The Swiss said the FIBA had not detailed the issue on whether ensuring more allotted berths to each continent or expanding the Qualifying Tournaments.

Several major rules were changed and the paint area was reshaped at a FIBA executive meeting in April, which will make the international games be more like an NBA game in 2009.

"These changes of rules, like extending the length of three-point line, will make the game more NBA. If the rest of the world wants to compete with the USA, they must adapt to their rules. It is possible that the U.S. win the 2012 Olympics by a winning margin of 30 points. If it's so, it means the world is 30-point away to the U.S.. It will be like the situation in 1992 and the rest of the world need some Olympics to catch up and it's all over again," Baumann said.

(Xinhua News Agency August 22, 2008)

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