US basketball players to stay in Olympic Village

NEW YORK – No more five-star hotels for the US Olympic men’s basketball team. When America’s best players head to Athens for the 2004 Olympics, they’ll stay in the athletes’ village – a departure from 1992, 1996 and 2000 when the team stayed at hotels. «From a philosophical standpoint, we find it appropriate to stay in the village. Many athletes have suggested that doing so is a significant part of the Olympic experience,» USA Basketball President Tom Jernstedt said yesterday. The planned change in accommodation was one of several topics that came up during a conference call with Jernstedt and the selection committee chairman, Stu Jackson, to discuss the US federation’s plans following the disappointing sixth-place finish at last summer’s World Championships. The federation plans to select a core group of eight or nine players by mid-February to represent the USA at both next summer’s qualifying tournament and the 2004 Olympics. USA Basketball officials have already been in contact with International Olympic Committee officials regarding the accommodation the American players would have at the Olympic Village, Jernstedt said. Critics have chastised past US teams for staying at fancy hotels and isolating themselves from the lower-profile athletes in Barcelona, Atlanta and Sydney. At the World Championships last summer, the US team had its own hotel, while the other 15 teams stayed at a different one. «I felt it would have helped in Indianapolis if they had been around the other teams a little more to just understand the magnitude and spirit of the event. We’re hoping the players will be encouraged,» Jackson said. USA Basketball also plans to have an extended training camp and to play several exhibitions before the 2004 Olympics. Yugoslavia, the world champion, and Greece, the host country, are already slotted in two of the 12 spots in 2004. Also, there will be three teams from the Americas region, three from Europe, one each from Africa and Asia and two from Oceania.

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