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Great Britain teams to play at London 2012 Olympics


Deng delighted at Olympic go-ahead

By Rob Dugdale

Great Britain's men's and women's teams have been given the go-ahead to compete at the London 2012 Olympics.

World governing body Fiba made its long-awaited decision at a central board meeting in Lyon on Sunday.

GB Basketball had been asked to show what long-term investment the sport would receive after London 2012.

Both GB teams have already qualified for this summer's European Championship finals but would have struggled to qualify for the Olympics as of right.

GB women's star Johannah Leedham, who took advantage of an injury layoff to travel to Lyon for the decision, said: "There's a real sense of relief that we've got it.

The thought that I could miss out on the Olympics in my home town has been haunting me for a while but now it's something to look forward to

GB star Pops Mensah-Bonsu

"Although we've got it now I don't think it will sink in for a while."

Men's team forward Pops Mensah-Bonsu, who now plays professionally in Lyon, echoed Leedham's sentiments.

"It's not going to sink in for me until I'm travelling to the opening ceremony," he said.

"The thought that I could miss out on the Olympics in my home town has been haunting me for a while but now it's something to look forward to and start preparing for."

Great Britain and Chicago Bulls star Luol Deng told BBC Sport: I'm really excited. We're really happy to get it. We've been waiting for this decision for a while. We put in a lot of work to get to where we are.

"This is great for basketball back home. Basketball has been getting better and better and this is another step to where we want to get to."

Basketball is the only Olympic sport where a decision on host participation has to be approved by the world governing body.

Had GB's teams not been granted host spots, they would have had to reach the finals of their respective EuroBasket competitions.

GB women only qualified for the tournament for the first time this year.

Johannah Leedham
Leedham and the GB women's team will play at EuroBasket this summer

The men's team has made significant progress since they were reformed by the individual federations of England, Wales and Scotland in 2005.

They reached EuroBasket in 2009 and 2011 and, although they failed to get out of the group stages two years ago, have been tipped as an outside contender for a medal at 2012.

Fiba had insisted that GB produce a legacy plan for the sport post-2012 to match their accomplishments on the court.

"The key to today was the team's results last summer, when they qualified for EuroBasket as of right," said British Basketball Federation chairman Bill McInnes. "That made it a very easy decision for Fiba to make.

"But five years ago people thought we were out of our heads to dream of playing in the Olympics."

The Fiba board's decision was taken by a 17-3 majority on a proposal that the have to decide before next July whether the three federations want to carry on as Great Britain or devolve back to individual nations for competitive matches.

Originally, GB asked Fiba for four years to make that decision and transition, but the decision gives them only 15 months to decide their post-2012 future.

Fiba's desire for a unified Great Britain body within Fiba is a concept that has met with some opposition domestically.

We are confident the British players will inspire new generations of basketball players across the UK

Andy Hunt
BOA chief executive

Fiba secretary general Patrick Baumann said the vote was a sign that the governing body wanted GB to show decisiveness in determining their future.

"It's not about losing patience," he said. "I think they are so close to making the right steps for the right governance and really driving basketball for the future.

"It's in everyone's best interests - I understand the sensitivities in the country and so we left them the choice"

GB Basketball has implemented a plan called Towards 2016, designed to develop the game domestically as well as ensure the teams qualify in their own right for the next Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.

It has also commissioned a feasibility study into hosting the Men's EuroBasket tournament in either 2015 or 2017 as another sign of long-term commitment.

The news means Great Britain are the second nation to book their place in next year's Games, after the US men's and women's teams won their respective world championships last year.

British Olympic Association chief executive Andy Hunt welcomed the announcement.

"We are delighted that Fiba has rightfully given both the teams the opportunity to compete for Team GB in front of an enthusiastic home crowd," he said.

"Today's decision is recognition of the excellent progress made by British Basketball on and off the court over the last five years.

"It represents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the sport to significantly increase its participation and profile, and leave a lasting legacy throughout the UK.

"We are confident that the British players will thrill the public with credible, exciting performances and by showcasing their skill and talent, inspire new generations of basketball players across the UK."

NBA commissioner David Stern welcomed the decision, saying: "The opportunity for [British] fans to see Team GB compete at the highest level of our sport will be a treat for them and will accelerate the appreciation for basketball in the UK in an enormously positive way."

Felipe Reyes

GB gave eventual winners Spain a scare at EuroBasket 2009

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London 2012 - begin your journey here

see also
Future of GB basketball hangs in balance
11 Mar 11 |  Basketball
Two worlds collide
07 Mar 11 |  Basketball
Basketball boss upbeat on GB bid
04 Mar 11 |  Basketball
BOA backs GB Basketball for 2012
02 Mar 11 |  Basketball
NBA stars to play in Manchester
28 Feb 11 |  Basketball
GB's Mensah-Bonsu in French move
17 Feb 11 |  Basketball
GB set for water polo at Olympics
11 Mar 11 |  Swimming
Team GB awarded 2012 judo places
10 Mar 11 |  Judo
2012 Olympics schedule revealed
15 Feb 11 |  London 2012

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