By Nelson Belen, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – One of the most anticipated events at the 2016 Olympics will be the men’s basketball tournament, which will feature many of the world’s biggest basketball stars, such as Stephen Curry and Pau Gasol. In preparation, Brazilian NBA players Nenê Hilário and Raulzinho Neto were on hand at Praça Mauá on Tuesday (May 17th) with NBA representatives to announce the NBA House, set to open during the 2016 Olympics.
With Guanabara Bay and the new Museu do Amanhã (Museum of Tomorrow) serving as the backdrop, the NBA House will be a meeting point and interactive fan experience area for visitors in Rio during the Olympics. The NBA is using one of the port’s warehouses for the site, which will open on August 12th until the final day of the Olympics, August 21st.
While many of the basketball games will be taking place at the Olympic Park in Barra da Tijuca, for fans unable to attend the games, NBA House will be the next best thing.
The 3,000 square meter space, which holds 1,500 people, will have a basketball court, video games, basketball workshops, autograph sessions with players, and the Larry O’Brien Trophy, which is awarded to the NBA champion each year. Many NBA stars are expected to participate in the NBA House festivities.
“The idea is for it to be a meeting place for fans from all over the world during the Games,” said Arnon de Mello, executive director of the NBA in Brazil. Admission will be free, and De Mello advises fans to expect long lines when the venue opens as he expects 50,000 guests to visit the site over the ten days.
Though the Brazil men’s team is in the difficult Group B draw, which includes London 2012 silver medalists Spain, Raulzinho, speaking at the NBA House announcement, believes the team will perform well. “We are better prepared to take on players from the United States, from Spain and a large amount of NBA players as we are more used to playing against them,” said the Utah Jazz guard. “This is a big positive for us.”
The U.S. team, the reigning Olympic and world champions and current gold medal favorites, are in Group A. About 500,000 visitors are expected to visit Rio for the 2016 Olympics, the first in South America.