Toronto bidding to host 2011 FIBA Americas
With the 2012 Olympic qualifying tournament just over a year away, the Canadian men's basketball team is hoping to secure the ultimate home-court advantage.
Basketball Canada made its pitch Thursday to members of basketball's world governing body as it bids to host the 2011 FIBA Americas tournament. Toronto is running against Mar del Plata, Argentina, and Rio de Janeiro for the right to host the bi-annual event, which will double as the qualifier for the Olympic tournament in London.
The tournament features teams from North, Central and South America and the Caribbean. Canada finished fourth at the 2009 competition in San Juan, Puerto Rico, earning a berth in this year's world championship this summer in Turkey.
Canada hasn't hosted a major international basketball event since the 1994 world championship. Former national team member Rowan Barrett played in that tournament, and remembers the thrill he got from competing in front of a raucous home crowd.
"There's nothing that you like more as a player than to represent your country in your country," Barrett said from atop the CN Tower, where Canada Basketball and FIBA met with the media.
National head coach Leo Rautins said holding the tournament in Toronto — and specifically the Air Canada Centre — makes plenty of sense from a strategic standpoint.
"It would be a players' tournament," said Rautins. "Everything is right next to each other. When you go into a tournament, the pressure, the time, the commitment from the players is intense.
"To have everything as conveniently situated as it would be here is a tremendous asset to all the players participating in the tournament."
For Rautins, convenience is a major issue. He has previously been critical of the FIBA Americas tournament schedule, and with good reason: at last year's tournament, his team had to play nine games in a 10-day span.
Toronto diversity a major plus
While Canada managed to hold it together and qualify for the worlds, Rautins would no doubt like to see Canada enjoy some measure of home comfort for the 2011 event.
Part of Basketball Canada's pitch is that just about every team would feel cosy in Toronto, which boasts one of the most diverse populations in the world.
"Every country in the tournament will be well-represented in the stands, to the point where I might have to [remind] my people that they're still living in Canada," Rautins joked. "That's the kind of country Canada is. The support would be tremendous for all the teams here."
The three bid countries will make official presentations during the FIBA Americas board meeting in San Juan, Puerto Rico, on May 22. The executive committee will then meet during the FIBA Americas Under 18 men's championship in San Antonio, Texas, at the end of June to vote on which city will host the event.
While FIBA Americas officials have raved about Toronto during their visit, secretary general Alberto Garcia cautioned against getting overconfident.
"Canada is an excellent candidate," said Garcia. "[But] during the presentation, members of the board, they have to see what we have seen. And they have to feel the same way we feel here.
"We can translate this, but it would be much better for [Basketball Canada] to transmit that."
Basketball Canada executive director Wayne Parrish said his organization realizes the job isn't done yet.
"We have some work left to do," said Parrish. "[FIBA has] been able to advise us of the things that we need to work on with in the bid.
"We're very hopeful that [the vote] will result in a positive for Toronto."