Government green-lights European basketball qualifiers for weekend

The government has given the go-ahead for European Basketball Championship qualifiers to be played in Tallinn from Saturday, after hammering out a coronavirus regime which includes games being played behind closed doors, without a crowd.

At the proposal of culture minister Tõnis Lukas (Isamaa), the games will be attended by specific coronavirus regulations which will allow individuals who test negative for coronavirus to take part, even if they are identified as a close contact of someone with the virus, and provided they return negative on a second test.

Sport and sporting activities fall under the culture ministry's remit.

As reported by ERR News, the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) awarded Tallinn the European championships group B qualifying matches last month, with special COVID-19 regulations to be followed.

The tournament will follow the FIBA's COVID-19 protocols, and will be spectator-less, with any tickets already sold to be refunded.

Prime minister: Major, linchpin sporting event

Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Center), a big basketball fan, pointed out that the qualifiers' organizers have gone to great lengths to ensure coronavirus best practices.

"The government's goal is to keep Estonian life running as much as possible, so we can continue as normally as is viable despite the spread of the coronavirus," Ratas said via a government press release.

"Holding the European Championships in Estonia is an event which will affect the future of our sport. The organization of a top-level European sporting event will help Estonia in getting the rights to organize other high-level international sports competitions later on," Ratas went on.

"Taking into consideration the future of Estonian sports and trusting the professionalism of the organizers and their cooperation with the Health Board (Terviseamet), the government decided today to give this distinction."

Tõnis Lukas noted that hosting the event also gives Estonia home-field advantage and thus a better chance of qualifying for the finals in 2022.

"Naturally, this holds if the team plays good basketball," Lukas said.

The main rationale in the change is to avoid one coronavirus case leading to an entire team's having to drop out of the competition, as well as getting sporting events back on-line after several high-profile competitions or events were canceled from March onward.

The games are to take place on Saturday, November 28 and Monday, November 30, at the Saku Suurhall in Tallinn.

Russia, North Macedonia and Italy are taking part, as well as hosts Estonia.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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