Rio's port should be hopping with basketball during Olympics
RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) Rio de Janeiro's renovated port area should be hopping - or ''hooping'' - during the Olympics.
The United States men's and women's basketball teams will be staying on a cruise ship in the port. A second and much larger liner will be anchored alongside during the games and provide lodging for what officials term the ''Olympic Family.''
The NBA is also expected to set up a ''hospitality house'' in the port area.
''We'll have two cruise ships in the port,'' Nilo Sergio Felix, secretary of the Rio de Janeiro state tourism office, told The Associated Press. ''There will be one with the basketball players and the other for Olympic people. These are the only two we expect.''
The ship housing the basketball stars will be the relatively small ''Silver Cloud'' operated by Silversea Cruises, which bills itself as the ''Leader in Luxury Cruising.''
The company lists the ship's capacity at 296 with a tonnage at 16,800. Its last cruise is in the Mediterranean in June before heading for the Olympics.
Craig Miller, a spokesman for USA Basketball, the national governing body, declined to confirm where the two basketball teams would stay. He listed security as a reason for not disclosing the location, but said the men's team stopped staying in the Olympic Village beginning with the 1992 Olympics - the first appearance of ''The Dream Team.''
''We don't stay in the village because we don't feel it's the best way to prepare for competition,'' Miller told the AP. ''The players have a long professional season and they want to spend as much time as possible with family and friends.''
Miller said it was always difficult during the Olympics to find lodging for the large American basketball delegation. The United States teams stayed in hotels in London and Beijing, and on a cruise ship in Athens in 2004 - the Queen Mary 2.
He said USA Basketball picks up the costs of the lodging, an expense that would be covered primarily by games organizers if players stayed in the village.
Miller said tall players have the same problem no matter where they stay.
''You face the issue in a hotel, or you would face it in a village; the beds aren't made for 7-foot (2.13-meter) players,'' he said. ''These guys live on the road and they figure out ways to sleep. Sometimes I've seen them put their luggage at the end of the bed so their feet can rest there.''
Rio's new port area, centered on Praca Maua, is the most visible sign of change that Olympic organizers promised to bring to Rio. The centerpiece at the port is the Museum of Tomorrow, a science museum designed by the futuristic architect Santiago Calatrava.
The port is situated on heavily polluted Guanabara Bay, which will host Olympic sailing. Sadly, it's a reminder of a broken promise by organizers to cleanse the fetid waters.
''From a legacy perspective, I think this was a missed opportunity to reach the goal that was supposed to be achieved,'' Rio Mayor Eduardo Paes said Thursday, referring to Olympic bid pledges to drastically cut the amount of raw sewage flowing into the bay.
The port area is remote from the basketball venues at the Olympic Park in Barra da Tijuca and the northern cluster in Deodoro, where some women's games will be played. Travel could take more than an hour depending on traffic, a problem that should be improved when the Olympic lanes - set aside only for Olympic traffic - start operating in late July.
The NBA is also expected to run a hospitality venue in the port, probably in one of the abandoned warehouses that have been used for exhibitions by companies like Nike.
An NBA spokeswoman declined to specify the plans, saying they would be released shortly.
The ''Olympic Family'' will stay on the cruise ship ''Getaway'' operated by Norwegian Cruise Lines. The company listed the capacity at 4,000 guests and tonnage of 145,655. It's one of the world's largest cruise ships.
Rio organizers confirmed the ship's presence. They said 90 percent of the ship would be reserved for the ''Olympic Family,'' a term that takes in sponsors, national Olympic committees, sports federations and other guests of the Switzerland-based International Olympic Committee.
Rio officials said the remaining 10 percent of the cabins would be sold in tour packages by the Brazilian operator Tam Viagens.
A company spokeswoman for Norwegian Cruise Lines declined to give information, saying it was bound by contract not to disclose details.
Stephen Wade on Twitter: http://twitter.com/StephenWadeAP . His work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/stephen-wade