Victoria Olympic basketball qualifying tournament to start without fans, organizers hopeful spectators can join later
VICTORIA -- The basketball court floor that the Toronto Raptors won the NBA title on in 2019 is getting ready to be installed at the Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre in Victoria. It’s in preparation for the next week's Olympic Qualifying Tournament that begins on June 29.
"Nick Nurse is coaching the Canadian Team so that would definitely be something that I would be interested to see," said Kento Hirano, who was shooting hoops at the outdoor basketball courts across from the Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre on Wednesday.
Even if Hirano had a ticket, he wouldn’t be able to go. In fact, as of Wednesday, nobody will be able to watch the tournament in person. At least not in the month of June.
"We’re hopeful that on July the 1st, that we can make available some spectators," said Clint Hamilton, chair of the steering committee for the 2020 FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament.
Some 27,000 tickets were sold for the tournament, and that was going to mean a huge economic boom for Victoria. Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
"Now, obviously we’d hoped for a large tourism impact, but that’s not the reality and that’s been the impact of COVID," said Hamilton.
"Certainly there is more economic impact from having it than not," said Bill Lewis, chairman of the Hotel Association of Greater Victoria.
Players, media and crew will all be living in a bubble environment while they’re here. They will only be allowed to visit three venues -- the CARSA gym facility at the University of Victoria, the Save-On-Foods Centre and their hotel.
"One hotel in Victoria has been completely booked out to operate in a bubble environment, and so that hotel obviously is getting a huge benefit," said Lewis. "Good for them."
Players are believed to be staying at the Delta Ocean Pointe, although the hotel wouldn’t confirm that on Wednesday.
There are some positives still for the island. Approximately $5 million of direct spending has already taken place, and Victoria could see some tourism dollars in the future, as a result of international media coverage.
"Tens of millions of viewers will be watching the games," said Hamilton.
"This FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament will be broadcast and streamed across the world," he said. "Victoria will be resplendent (with what's shown in) our venue and the impact for our city, our region, our province, our country will be significant."
Players are expected to begin arriving in Victoria over the next few days.