Canada’s men’s basketball team will get a small boost at its last-chance Olympic qualifier in Victoria.
B.C. Public Health said Friday it would allow roughly 10 per cent attendance at the Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre for games beginning Thursday, July 1. The Victoria arena normally seats 7,400 people.
That excludes Canada’s round-robin games which take place on Monday and Tuesday, but includes the tournament semifinals and final.
B.C. Public Health said spectators from different parties must physically distance from each other and from event staff, and that masks are mandated, except for eating and drinking. Alcohol has been prohibited from the event.
Clint Hamilton, chair of the local organizing committee Friends of Victoria Basketball, told CBC Sports the group has been working with the province on a plan for months, but talks only intensified over the last three weeks once it became clear COVID-19 vaccination rates and transmission rates were moving in the right direction.
“We’re excited that some of this world-class basketball, our basketball fans will be able to enjoy. And we’re grateful that the plan we submitted was met with confidence by the public health officer and we’re just excited,” Hamilton said.
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Hamilton said the committee had been eyeing the July 1 date in recent weeks to stay in line with the province’s reopening plan, despite missing out on Canada’s Monday and Tuesday round-robin games.
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B.C.’s reopening plan calls for limited indoor spectators at sporting events in Step 3, as long as 70 per cent or more of adults have received one dose of a vaccine, to go with low case counts and low rate of hospitalization.
All three criteria have been met, but the province has said it won’t enter that stage before Thursday.
Teams are restricted to a modified bubble including the arena, training facilities and hotels. Daily COVID-19 testing is administered to all those within the bubble.
Hamilton said 27,000 tickets were sold within days of their release before the pandemic. He said it’s likely a lottery will determine who fills the available seats, with all those left behind receiving full refunds. First priority in the lottery will go to those who originally purchased tickets and held onto them.
“Those are the people who have stuck with us that will be our first priority and it’s unlikely we will have enough tickets to satisfy all the people that stayed in the system,” Hamilton said.
Some logistics like how seating will be spaced apart still need to be determined.
A team of 14, led by head coach Nick Nurse, arrived in B.C. on Thursday. The roster will be cut to 12 before the tournament begins.
Canada’s men haven’t participated in Olympic basketball since the 2000 Sydney Games.
Other teams in Victoria include Greece, China, Turkey, Uruguay and the Czech Republic.