Venezuela's pending FIBA bid a concern for USA hoops

Updated: October 10, 2006, 11:31 PM ET
By Andy Katz | ESPN.com

FIBA Americas gave Venezuela one last shot to come up with a suitable financial package by Monday to beat out Las Vegas or San Juan in order to host the Beijing 2008 Olympic qualifying tournament next August.

FIBA Americas announced on its web site late Tuesday night that the executive committee declined to accept the Venezuelan Federation's original bid to host the 2007 FIBA Americas Championship, an event that has taken on a higher profile after the U.S. and Argentina failed to earn the automatic qualifier to the Olympics when neither won the gold medal at the World Championships in Japan last month.

Chile was one of the original bidders but is out of the process now that it has received the women's tournament of Americas event. Venezuela lost its bid when it failed to make a $1.5 million payment by the Aug. 31 deadline. A payment was made but it was after the deadline and FIBA Americas announced that payment would be returned to the Venezuelan Federation.

ESPN.com has learned that the bid from the U.S. and Puerto Rico is more than a million dollars over what Venezuela was offering. Still, the executive committee -- President Julio Subero (Dominican Republic); Vice president Horacio Muratore (ARG); Second Vice president Jim Tooley (USA); Treasurer George Killian (USA); Secretary General Alberto Garcia (ARG); former President Rick Traer (Canada) and Secretary General Emeritus Jenaro Marchand (Puerto Rico) -- isn't shutting Venezuela out of the process just yet.

Multiple sources told ESPN.com over the past month that the U.S. didn't want to go to Venezuela because of the anti-American government. Just last month, Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez called President George Bush "the devil" when speaking at the United Nations, a day after Bush spoke.

Still, it would be a tricky situation if the committee awarded the event to Venezuela given the political pressure not to go to Caracas. Multiple sources also told ESPN.com that players and staff could have issues going to a place that is ripe with anti-American behavior.

But money could be the driving force since a number of the FIBA programs in the Americas need the funds. If money is the main issue then the event will likely go to Las Vegas or San Juan. Had the U.S. won the World Championships, as expected, then this event would have had lower television rights and sponsorship, making it less a need to put it in the U.S. or Puerto Rico. But with NBA players, all-stars like LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and Dwyane Wade, the television and sponsorship is sure to soar if the event were in Las Vegas, or maybe even in Puerto Rico.

FIBA Americas said on its Web site that "government support [which isn't an issue for the U.S. since USA Basketball isn't government funded], economic power, sport infrastructure, TV and information systems, good hotel chains and transportation," are key in awarding the bid.

If that's the case then Las Vegas should receive the bid. But this still could be a political decision and giving Venezuela six more days to come up with the necessary funds may keep the window open ever so slightly to set up a possible dicey situation for USA Basketball.

Andy Katz is a senior writer at ESPN.com.

Andy Katz | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com