PARIS: Basketball has become the latest sport wanting an extra event in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, while at the same time battling to keep Japan in the Olympic tournament.
International Basketball Federation (FIBA) president Horacio Muratore told Agence France-Presse that new International Olympic Committee reforms had made street basketball, three players against three, a prime candidate for 2020.
Baseball, squash and the likes of karate are already lobbying furiously in the race for a place.
IOC changes setting a limit on the number of medal events rather than sports has boosted hopes of many federation leaders like Muratore. The host city can also name a sport that it would like.
Muretore said the 40 reforms to the Olympics were a “big success” for IOC leader Thomas Bach and “very important” for basketball as he presses the case for 3+3.
The mini basketball, played at a frenetic place on a half size court, is already in the Youth Olympics and will also be part of the first European Games in Baku in June.
“This opens a door for us for three against three,” said the FIBA leader.
“This is a step forward that gives us big hope that at the 2020 Olympics the organizing committee will include 3+3 as an additional event.
“This would be a huge step forward if it was accepted because it is our goal to strengthen 3+3 worldwide and be part of the Olympics.”
“At the last Youth Olympics in Nanjing, countries that you would usually never hear of in traditional 5+5, such as Andorra, Iraq, Qatar, Guam, smaller nations, are now actually making it on the international stage,” Muratore said.
Qatar won the men’s title at the 3+3 world championships this year, whilst traditional heavyweights the United States took the women’s crown.
While the likes of Kobe Bryant and Lebron James overshadow the full Olympic basketball court, Serbia’s Dusan Domovic ‘Raging Bull’ Bulut and Dejan Majstorovic dominate the 3+3 rankings.
Japan’s ‘point of no return’
FIBA faces another battle in Japan after suspending the country for failing to merge its rival national basketball leagues. Japan could miss out on the 2016 Olympics in Rio if it does not enact reforms on time.
The international governing body has talked tough with the Japan Basketball Association over the two men’s leagues, but Muratore said he sees “positive” signs that Japanese sports leaders want reform.
“FIBA really regrets that such a situation has reached a point of no return,” the president said. “This had to be done because a lot of FIBA requirements were not met.”
Muratore said it was “most important to embrace the opportunity that the 2020 Olympic Games will provide to basketball in Japan.
“It is our objective for Japan to have a competing team for the 2020 Olympics both for men and women and it would not make any sense to not have Japan at the Olympics. They are organizing it so they should have teams present.”
FIBA is setting up a task force in Japan to bring together the National Basketball League and the rival BJ League (Basketball Japan league).
“We are very hopeful that the situation will change because of the importance of Japan,” Muratore said.
“We have always had meetings and communications with the JBA. What we want to achieve here is to get out of this complicated situation.
“We will put our efforts into it and the signals we are receiving from Japan are positive—they want to get out of this situation for the benefit of basketball in Japan,” he declared.