Basketball Olympic qualifying tournament to kick off without fans in Victoria

Basketball Olympic qualifying tournament to kick off without fans in Victoria
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Victoria Olympic basketball tournament to start without fans but organizers are hopeful fans can join with Dr. Bonnie Henry's approval.

Dozens of basketball players will be confined in a hotel bubble while they wait for the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament to begin.

In the meantime, Save-On-Foods Memorial Arena is undergoing a transformation from top to bottom where boards are carefully unloaded, in the process of creating a world-class basketball court.

Six countries, including Canada, are competing in the event starting June 29 with the winning team punching their ticket to the Tokyo Olympics.

Team Canada is competing against Turkey, China, the Czech Republic, Uruguay and Greece.

Clint Hamilton, chair of the Steering Committee for the 2020 FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament says this tournament will have high stakes.

“The stakes are high,” Hamilton said. “The winner of our qualifier, along with the other three qualifiers, which are all occurring will all get the last berths to the men’s Olympic tournament in Tokyo.”

However, fans may not be able to see any live-action unless organizers get the go-ahead from BC’s provincial health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry.

“We’re hopeful that the request we’ve made which is roughly for ten percent of the capacity of save-on, will allow us to have some spectators on July first,” Hamilton said. “We remain hopeful.”

The tournament is significant for the world of spectators also because it will be the biggest event since 1994.

“For basketball, in 1994 Toronto hosted the world championship,” Hamilton said. “So this is the biggest most important basketball event that’s come to Canada since that time.”

Even if fans are not in person, millions will watch the games on television and the impact for the city will be felt, according to Jeff Bray, Executive Director of the Downtown Victoria Business Association.

“This could be just another example of being able to host world-class sporting events, or other types of events that, again, bring people into the region, bring investment, and bring really great attention.”

There could be a word on whether or not fans will be allowed inside as early as this week.

WATCH: More than a court: Victoria’s FIBA Olympic Qualifier to be played on historic Raptors’ championship floor

Mary GriffinMary Griffin

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