China aims to slam-dunk Cup

0 Comment(s)Print E-mail China Daily, June 13, 2018
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With the 2019 FIBA World Cup just around the corner, China has stepped up preparations for hosting the global hoops gala.

As arguably the most popular team sport in China, basketball will see its profile further enhanced next year when the country hosts the expanded edition of the tournament, formerly the world championship, in eight cities from Aug 31 to Sept 15.

Preparatory work has been progressing well and is on schedule, the organizing committee said on Monday, adding that the priority this year is to complete refurbishment of all venues while finalizing accommodation, service and marketing plans.

"The FIBA World Cup is a milestone sporting event which happens to fall during the 70th anniversary of the founding of our country, thus we shall mobilize all necessary resources to ensure its success," said sports minister Gou Zhongwen, who's also serving as chairman of the organizing committee.

The 2019 tournament will expand from 24 to 32 teams for the preliminary stage, before being whittled down to 16 for the group stage followed by a top-eight knockout stage.

Organizers expect around 5,000 athletes, officials, sponsors and media staff to participate.

"The sense of urgency is all that I feel at the moment," said Chinese Basketball Association chairman Yao Ming. "Basketball is such a high-profile sport in China, so we definitely hope to put on a show that can set a benchmark for this event in the future."

After discussions with FIBA representatives at nine joint management committee workshops, organizers are working with eight co-host cities, including Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, to increase spectator capacities, upgrade VIP boxes and remove unauthorized advertisements at eight competition venues.

Two FIBA delegations led by secretary general Patrick Baumann have already visited China to negotiate with local organizers in marketing, venue management, media operation and broadcasting.

Sports marketing agency Infront, owned by Chinese conglomerate Wanda Group, has been endorsed by FIBA and the local organizing committee at a cost of $28.9 million to seek 13 partners, sponsors and suppliers from China to support the tournament in funding and services.

In April, the organizing committee unveiled the official mascot of the tournament - a cartoon character called Son of Dreams, based on the image of a Chinese dragon - after earlier releasing the event's official emblem, inspired by Peking Opera facial masks.

"We have entered a critical year in preparations, and to make all participants feel welcome and well treated is as important as running the competition," said Li Yingchuan, executive president of the organizing committee, adding that all foreign participants will be guaranteed free internet access at certain facilities.

Masterminded by Yao, who was elected boss of the CBA in February 2017, the Chinese men's national program now features two parallel squads, identified as Blue and Red, with independent coaching staffs and rosters aimed at doubling the drills leading up to the World Cup.

After participating in the Asian qualifiers, both teams will merge into one force early next year to compete at the Cup.

Team Red's consecutive losses to an Australian select team last Friday and Sunday, highlighted by a four-point first-quarter performance in the second game, has exposed the young squad's lack of experience and aggressiveness.

Although some key players such as former NBA forward Yi Jianlian and starting point guard Guo Ailun will join the program later, the team is not ready yet for big international tests, said coach Li Nan.

"We don't have much time left to enhance our performance," said Li, a core member of China's eighth-finish 2008 Summer Olympics team.

"We shall make the best out of each of our qualifiers and warm-ups to give our young guns drills to toughen them up."

China's previous best result at the tournament was eighth place at the 1994 edition in Canada when it was hosted in the old "world championship" format.

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