When I recently reported from the Youth Olympic Games, I mentioned that in some sports there was an experimentation with new variations, e.g., mixed gender relays in swimming, combinations of different races in cycling, and basketball on a half court with 3 players against 3.
From several media reports, it appears that this new basketball version (labeled ‘FIBA 33’) has come to stay, and that it may even be under serious consideration for the regular Olympic program as early as in 2016. Of course, there is nothing artificial about it, as it is a traditional street or backyard version of basketball. But from there to the Olympic program would normally be a big step.
But it seems that ‘FIBA 33’ has strong supporters. The FIBA Secretary General, who is an IOC member, has been pushing hard for it to be recognized, so apparently FIBA does not view it as potential competition or distraction for ‘real’ basketball. The Brazilian IOC member, who is also Chief of the Organizing Committee for Rio 2016, appears enthusiastic. And it has support from IOC President Rogge, who seems to like its appeal to younger spectators. This suggests that the chances are good. Moreover, as long as FIBA agrees to cut back on the number of athletes in the normal basketball competition, it may be possible to ‘sneak in’ the ‘FIBA 33’ without adopting it as a completely new sport.
One of the reasons for FIBA’s eagerness to introduce this new variation is supposedly the great success of Beach Volleyball. FIBA has been a bit ‘envious’, and while a beach version of basketball is not really feasible, the ‘3 against 3’ variation certainly is both different enough from normal basketball to create an interest in its own right, and at the same time a good PR for basketball more generally. So then the question will come up: does handball have a similar possibility?
Beach Handball has already existed as a competition sport for some time now, for instance with a well-organized World Championship event for both men and women in Antalya, Turkey, quite recently. But Beach Handball is still ‘emerging’, and it is not really clear how it is going to evolve in the future. It may also be matter of debate whether it is an advantage to have it managed as a ‘Cinderella’ activity by handball federations that are already ‘stretched thin’ by a shortage of resources in terms of money and personnel, or whether some form of increased independence would be better. In any case, the question arises: from a potential Olympic perspective, is it sufficiently different from indoor handball, in the same way as beach volleyball differs from indoor volleyball?
And then one must ask: does the new basketball concept with ‘FIBA 33’ give handball some reasons to think about a similar approach? ‘Street handball’ is a common adaptation in many places, and a ‘half court game’ could be a good method of introducing handball where the full-size game is not feasible. But would it be feasible to turn it into a competition sport that differs from indoor handball in a meaningful way? And then the broader issue: despite what volleyball and basketball are doing, is it perhaps better for handball to focus on the indoor handball game as the [u]only [/u]one for Olympic exposure, letting beach handball evolve in its current ‘hybrid’ state (somewhere ‘between serious and fun’)for the time being? And would perhaps the ‘half-court game’ instead become a useful developmental tool?!
Edmonton Sun (21 Aug 10): Basketball buoyed by Youth Games success: http://www.edmontonsun.com/sports/basketball/2010/08/21/15096326.html
Singapore Sports Blog (26 Aug 10): FIBA earns praise from IOC president for innovative 3-on-3 format: http://redsports.sg/2010/08/26/jacques-rogge-youth-olympic-press-conference/