“Welcome home,” proclaimed the Athens 2004 slogan. The FIBA Study Center also received a warm welcome from the Athens 2004 Olympic Committee (ATHOC 2004), thanks to the extensive collaborative efforts the two groups shared long before the Olympic basketball tournament.
The collaboration between ATHOC 2004 and the FIBA Study Center started in April 2001 with the first meeting in Athens at the ATHOC 2004 headquarters. In attendance were the FIBA Study Center delegates, top ATHOC 2004 personnel, the representatives of the Hellenic Basketball Federation (HBF), and government officials representing the Ministry of Public Works.
The focus of the meeting was the use of the OAKA and Hellenikon Sports Facilities and the four training facilities (Maroussi, Ano Lossia, Peristeri and Agia Paraskevi), as well as the choice of the most suitable basketball equipment for the Games.
As far as the time schedule was concerned, it should be noted that thanks to the valuable collaboration of ATHOC 2004 and the Ministry of Public Works, the delivery terms were honored and most problems were overcome. Most of the problems were related to the Hellenikon Sports Center, whose steel structure was imported from Spain. This entailed a delay in the adjustment of the existing facilities. Nevertheless, the materials employed and the execution of the building works was of the highest quality and the work was completed.
This outcome was also made possible through the efforts of the Study Center.
Over the past few years, the Center offered guidance in the necessary improvements in the quality and safety standards of the basketball facilities and technical equipment.
The results of this teamwork were evident during the Olympic tournaments.
The potential multi-purpose problems (the Hellenikon Sports Center also hosted the handball tournament while OAKA hosted the gymnastics tournament) were all eliminated without any difficulties occurring during the competition stages.
A more detailed analysis of the works undertaken in each facility now follows.
The work undertaken in OAKA was minor since the sports hall was recently built and therefore in very good condition. The only work entailed waterproofing the covering (necessitated due to the seepage of rainwater), repair of the air conditioning system, and refurbishment of the support areas (changing rooms, mixed zone, and guest area). This work was carried out in compliance with the norms related to disabled people since the Paralympics Games would be held soon after.
For the center court, a mobile wooden floor and brand new backstop units were installed according to the latest safety standards. All technical equipment supplied by the FIBA Study Center Partners was of the highest quality.
2. HELLENIKON SPORTS CENTER
The work at the Hellenikon Sports Center was the most substantial, both in terms of structure and in terms of costs. The aim was to restructure the old hangar of the Glifada airport – previously used for aircraft in need of maintenance-in order to transform it into a basketball facility that could seat 15,000 spectators.
More than 150 foundation poles had to be installed to bear the weight of tribunes that had to be installed. To meet spectator safety standards, the most complex work concerned the placement of a 200-ton iron bar above the facility.
Having solved the structural problems, the next step was the installation of the technological systems. The adjoining court also had to be outfitted with permanent structures so it could be used after the Games.
3. THE FOUR TRAINING HALLS
The four training halls needed minimal rehabilitation: adjustment of the air conditioning system (Maroussi and Peristeri); upgrading the lighting system (Agia Paraskevi); refurbishing changing rooms (Peristeri); and a simple plastering of the changing rooms for three other halls (Ano Liossia, Maroussi, and Agia Paraskevi). All four training halls were supplied with backstop units used on the playing courts.
4. BASKETBALL EQUIPMENT
We adhere to the highest quality and safety standards. Each facility used in the Games for basketball (as well as gymnastics and handball) had the best equipment available, protecting both the athlete and spectator in the process.
With the end of the Athens 2004 Olympic Games, the FIBA Study Center is already looking to the future. FIBA representatives have already had their first meeting to inspect the Wukesong Arena, where the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games will take place.
An early analysis of the preliminary projects indicates that some innovative solutions have been utilized in the planning of the arena, both in terms of its dimensions (20,000-spectator capacity) and its architectural character. These innovations will involve the FIBA Study Center in a new challenge... towards the future.
The challenge of the basketball tournament for the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games has already started. A meeting in Beijing between the FIBA Study Center representatives (Aldo Vitale, Pier Luigi Marzorati, and Mabel Chang) and representatives from the Chinese Olympic Committee BOCOG (led by Zhiwei Pan and Liu Wenbin) was held to evaluate the planning of the Wukesong Arena, which will host the basketball tournament. Through our cooperative efforts, the Wukesong Arena, which will also have space for a trade center, will become an international showcase.
The inside of the arena is compact and extremely functional. Great care has been given to designing support structures, changing rooms, and areas. A more detailed evaluation will establish whether the emergency exits for spectators and the parking facilities for cars are in sufficient number. As far as the basketball equipment is concerned, all FIBA-approved products will be used. In view of the Paralympics Games that follow the Olympics, access for the disabled athletes and spectators will be addressed.
A new meeting will be organized shortly to evaluate all further steps in the planning works. Given the budget granted by the Government of the People’s Republic of China for the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games, the highest sum ever granted, the work of the FIBA Study Center at the basketball facilities will achieve the highest levels in terms of safety and comfort.