Victoria organizers get green light to have fans at Olympic basketball qualifying

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·2 min read
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

Victoria will feel like home court for Canada's men's basketball team after all.

Organizers for Canada's last-chance Olympic qualifying tournament which tips off Tuesday in Victoria have been given the green light to have fans at games.

"After working closely with BC Public Health, we have just now been approved to host up to 10 per cent of capacity at the Save on Foods Memorial Centre for games on July 1, 3 and 4," the West Basketball Festival organizing committee tweeted on Saturday.

Organizers told "ever-patient" ticket-holders that they're ironing out the final details.

The Save-On-Foods Centre has a capacity of 7,500.

Canada Basketball bid to host the tournament well before the COVID-19 pandemic hit in March of 2020, with dreams of a home court helping lift the Canadian men to their first Olympic appearance since the 2000 Sydney Games.

Rowan Barrett, the general manager of Canada's men's program, was on the 2000 team, and has fond memories of the Olympic qualifier in Puerto Rico, saying the experience galvanized that team.

When Canada acquired the qualifying tournament, he'd hoped noisy Canadians would help the team clinch a berth. But COVID-19 obviously had other ideas.

"If we can get that home-court advantage, get the wind at your back, in the big game, and help put some pressure on the other team, it's what we face constantly when we go to play and so to be able to maybe have that for us this year would be tremendous," Barrett said recently.

B.C. announced a reopening structure in late May that Canada Basketball had hoped would see fans in the arena.

"We will obviously follow the lead of the government and health officials to see if that is safe and possible; if it is, that would be great," Canada Basketball's president and CEO Glen Grunwald said recently. "One of the reasons we worked so hard to host this tournament here was so we could have some kind of home-court advantage and some fans in the stands."

Canada, which must win the tournament to play in Tokyo, opens Group A action on Tuesday versus Greece, which will be missing Giannis Antetokounmpo. The Canadians play China on Wednesday.

Group B has Uruguay, Czech Republic and Turkey. The top two teams in each group face off in the semifinals.

Tokyo organizers announced earlier this week that fans will be permitted at Olympic events. Crowds will be limited to 50 per cent, with a maximum of 10,000.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 27, 2021.

The Canadian Press

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting