For the next two weeks, the Czech Republic will be the centre of the world of basketball. Three cities are playing host to the women’s world championships, with the event expected to be a boost for the game locally and for the country abroad.
Czech President and former keen basketball player Václav Klaus, was one of several top personalities who appeared in ads exhorting visitors to come along to the championships which begin in Brno and Ostrava on Thursday. It is, as he said, 43 years ago in 1967 that the then Czechoslovakia last hosted the women’s international championships. Then the team won a bronze medal.
This time round sixteen teams are competing in the event including current world champions Australia, and the favourite for gold, the United States.
Czech Basketball Federation secretary general Miloš Pražák is currently in the midst of last minute preparations in Brno. He says the championships present an opportunity to showcase the sport in the country and to present the Czech Republic abroad.
“It is a possibility to broaden basketball in our country and for our people here. And I think it is a good promotion for the Czech Republic as a whole abroad because I think that a lot of people will see some of the games from our country and will learn something more about our country. So it is promotion for Czech basketball and it is promotion for the Czech Republic”
The Czech women’s team is currently sixth in the world rankings. So with home advantage it is in with a chance of a medal. Mr. Pražák says he would be satisfied with a quarter final place, and even happier if they took one step further.
“It will be a great success if our team is in the semifinals and competes for some medals but I am afraid that to win this championship would be a little bit of a miracle for us.”
First of all though, the Czechs have to negotiate the initial group stage in which they have been drawn against the strong Russian team and against Japan and Argentina. The Russians are currently ranked second in the world, the Czechs sixth and the Argentine and Japanese teams 10th and 14th.
If the miracle happens, the Czechs would take the court in Karlovy Vary, where the final stages are being held, for the climax of the competition on October 3. But the championships begin for the Czechs on Thursday evening, when they face Argentina in the country’s second city, Brno.
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