SPORTS

New rules for Olympic berths

SAITAMA, Japan (AFP) – Three berths for the 2008 Beijing Olympic men’s basketball tournament will be available in a 12-team showdown tournament in July 2008 under a plan revealed by FIBA here yesterday. The world basketball governing body’s membership approved a revamped Olympic qualifying plan that will have teams that miss out in regional qualifying play given a last-minute opportunity to book a trip to China. But creating the event means fewer guaranteed spots for the top teams in regional events in Asia, Europe, Africa, Oceania and the Americas. That could diminish Olympic representation from regions where the game is in critical growth stages, such as Asia and Africa. Next year’s five continental tournaments will now yield only seven Olympic berths – two teams each from Europe and the Americas and one each from Africa, Asia and Oceania. «It’s because we are growing,» FIBA Secretary-General Patrick Baumann said. «We had to make a little compromise with the automatic qualifying in the zones. And we want to capture your attention.» The tournament, which is to be staged at a yet-to-be-determined site, will definitely capture attention, but it figures to be a battle that will drain energy from those teams fortunate enough to advance to the Olympics in China weeks later. The breakdown of qualifiers for the last-chance Olympic qualifying event in July of 2008 will be four teams from Europe, three from the Americas, one from Oceania and two each from Asia and Africa. Those spots will go to the highest-ranked remaining teams from the 2007 qualifying events. Host China is already qualified for the 12-team Olympic tournament and Sunday’s winner of the World Championship final will be awarded another automatic berth. The women’s Olympic qualifying format includes a similar pre-Olympic event.