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B.C. premier doesn’t expect fans in arena during men’s pre-Olympic basketball tournament

B.C. Premier John Horgan says he does not think any fans will be allowed to attend the upcoming FIBA Olympic basketball qualifier in Victoria amid the third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Horgan says provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has approved the FIBA restart plan and for now it does not include spectators.

The games will be played at Victoria’s Memorial Centre and was originally scheduled to be played in 2020. Teams from Canada, China, Greece, Turkey, Czech Republic and Uruguay are looking to secure the one berth into the men’s basketball tournament at the Tokyo Olympic Games.

“There won’t be fans, at this time, as far as I am aware. It is still many weeks away, but I can’t see that happening,” Horgan said.

“We are excited to have the players coming to Victoria but it’s just sad as a basketball fan we will not be able to fill the arena to watch them play.”

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The tournament will be run as a ‘bubble concept’ with teams based at local hotels and bused to the arena to play games.

The province is expected to be in Step 2 of the restart plan on June 29 when the tournament begins and Step 3 on July 4 when the tournament ends.

Step 2 could allow for as many as 50 people seated in the arena while Step 3 does not have any specifics for audience numbers for indoor, organized events.

“The plan has been approved. Those players coming into the country have to be vaccinated. Their isolation would not be unlike what we saw in the NHL playoffs last year in Edmonton,” Horgan said.

“These athletes representing their country will do their best not to intrude on the lives of Victorians. ”

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Team Canada and tournament organizers have been holding out hope for fans.

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Canada’s coach, Nick Nurse, told Sportsnet in an interview last week having fans in the seats in Victoria would be to the team’s advantage.

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“I mean obviously we’re playing at home and it would be awesome to have (a home crowd),” Nurse said to Sportsnet.

“Think about what it would have been like if none of this would have happened. It would have been electric in there, right?

“It would be awesome if somehow they could figure out a way to do it safely to get some of our own fans in there.

“I know our players would appreciate the lift.”

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The original plan was to have 7,500 fans packed into the Victoria arena.

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Canada will feature a team full of NBA stars, with Andrew Wiggins, RJ Barrett and Kamloops’ Kelly Olynyk all invited to the team’s training camp.

The local organizing committee – Friends of Victoria Basketball – has provided a $3-million guarantee to FIBA to host the event.

“The folks out in Victoria have been awesome, both the organizing committee and the government out there,” Canada Basketball president Glen Grunwald said to the media last week.

“Obviously, public health and safety is the most important thing but we’ve designed a program that we think will ensure not only the safety of the participants but also the community at large.”

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