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GB absent from Beijing basketball

Team GB's Luol Deng
British star Luol Deng has set his sights on an Olympic outing in 2012
Britain will not be represented at the Olympic basketball tournament, having restarted the national team programme too late to make the qualifiying competition.

The Beijing Games are likely to be dominated by the USA, which has won all but four of the men's titles since the sport's introduction to the Olympics in 1936.

But European nations like Lithuania, Italy and Russia have historically fielded strong sides, and Argentina claimed the 2004 title in Athens.

Nine nations, including the USA, Argentina and hosts China, have so far qualified for Beijing 2008.

The others to have made it through are Angola, Australia, Iran, Russia, Lithuania and world champions Spain, with three spots still up for grabs.

Team GB's absence means the men's tournament has been without a British presence since the introduction of basketball in 1936. GB finished twentieth as hosts on their lone appearance in 1948.

The USA traditionally also dominates the women's Olympic game, with Australia playing the role of losing finalists at both Sydney and Athens.

Argentina's Luis Alberto Scola
Argentina won the men's tournament in 2004

The women's GB side has never made an appearance at an Olympic finals in the 30 years that the Games have hosted ladies' basketball.

For a period between 1992 and 2006 Britain fielded no senior international side at all, but both GB teams have shown recent signs of progress ahead of London 2012.

In September 2007 the men's team gained promotion to Division A of qualifying for the Eurobasket 2009 competition, beating Switzerland.

And the GB women beat the Netherlands in the same month, also achieving promotion.

While most of the women are based in the United Kingdom, only two of the senior men's squad play for British teams - point guard Richard Midgley at Newcastle Eagles, and centre Chris Haslam at Everton Tigers.

606: DEBATE
PS

With the retirement of John Amaechi, GB's most prestigious player by far is Chicago Bulls NBA star Luol Deng.

His introduction to the team in August 2007, a year after gaining British citizenship, helped GB gain promotion.

Team GB now stand a good chance of qualifying for the London 2012 Games, as under International Olympic Committee rules, the host nation can enter a team into any team sport.

But the international basketball federation Fiba insists that, with only 12 spots available in the Olympic tournaments, GB must be competitive by 2012 in order to take up their host's spots.

Next summer both teams will begin their qualifying campaigns for the 2009 European Championships.

Qualification for those finals - and the following Europeans final in 2011- would be a significant step in securing a home presence in London in 2012.


see also
NBA teams put on London showcase
10 Oct 07 |  Basketball
NBA plans bright British future
10 Oct 07 |  Basketball
NBA star gets GB ball rolling
17 Aug 07 |  Basketball
GB cleared for qualifying games
16 Jul 07 |  Basketball


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