Spectators get first taste of action at Olympic Park

London International Basketball Invitational (Olympic test event)

Venue:
Basketball Arena, Olympic Park, London
Date:
16-21 August
Teams:
Australia, China, Croatia, France, Great Britain, Serbia
Match times:
1530 BST, 1800 and 2030
Coverage:
GB v China on Red Button, 1800 BST, Saturday 20 August; GB v Australia on Red Button, 1800 BST, Sunday 21 August; reports on BBC Sport website

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Basketball stars set sights high

London's Olympic Park has staged its first day of competitive sporting action as the Basketball Arena hosted six of the world's best teams.

The London International Basketball Invitational is testing the temporary arena and transport into Olympic Park across six days.

It represents the first chance for spectators to watch sport at the 2012 Games site..

The Olympic Park will also host a BMX World Cup event on Saturday and Sunday.

Spectators are being directed to travel by public transport to Stratford station, before shuttle buses take them from the perimeter of the Olympic Park to the venue.

The 12,000-seater Basketball Arena is one of the largest temporary venues ever used for an Olympics, and during the Games its white exterior will act as a canvas for "an artistic and innovative lighting design".

It will be dismantled after the Games to be reused elsewhere at other UK and overseas events.

Richard Arnold from the Olympic Delivery Authority said: "There is not a definitive plan yet. Rio has shown quite a bit of interest in having the fabric and the structure. All these elements have been developed so they can be reused."

There are only 3,000 tickets available per session for the test event, with three games per day scheduled for 1530 BST, 1800 and 2030. The first four days of competition are already sold out.

Team GB chef de mission Andy Hunt said preparations for the Olympics were firmly on track despite the recent rioting across the country.

"While there can be no doubt that the images of violence were damaging, in some ways, it underscores why events such as the Olympic Games are so vitally important in our world today," Hunt said.

"A year from now, London will be the city where the world comes together in a spirit of friendship, peace, understanding and human excellence."

Hosts Great Britain lost their opening match 80-62 against a France side which boasts six NBA players.

NBA star Luol Deng, who has been included in the Great Britain squad that is also scheduled to take on Australia, China, Croatia and Serbia in a round-robin format, missed the match because of his commitments at his annual basketball camp in Loughborough.

GB Basketball officials said they did not know exactly when he would join up with the team - but they remained adamant he would play some part in the test event.

Great Britain, who last played in an Olympic basketball tournament at the 1948 London Games, are currently preparing for EuroBasket 2011, which begins in Lithuania on 31 August.

Despite the disappointing result on court, there were positive reviews for the new venue.

"It's pretty impressive," said GB captain Drew Sullivan. "It's just a shame that it's only temporary. It would be nice if it was going to stay.

"The atmosphere was really good, and we're really looking forward to playing here next summer when there are 12,000 people here.

"Hopefully, the majority of those 12,000 people will be cheering for us and you really get a feel for what it could be like."

China's coach Bob Donewald, who saw side side lose 71-43 to Australia in the first event ever to be held at the Olympic Park, praised the venue, saying: "First-class event, first-class teams and a first-class facility."

Australia star Patrick Mills, who was rested for the game, added: "The arena's really nice, the facilities are great and the atmosphere was good, and that's going to be important next year."

The day's other game saw Croatia beat Serbia 83-71.

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