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Updated: 2006-08-21 19:24
Basketball Olympic sport since 1936

For 36 years after basketball entered the Olympic Games as a full medal sport for men, the question was not who would win, but who would finish second. The United States owned the game, and not just because it was invented there.

U.S. player Dwyane Wade (L) maneuvers around China's Yao Ming during the first round of the world basketball championships in Sapporo August 20, 2006. [Reuters]
The Soviet Union took home the gold when they toppled the US team in a controversial 1972 game. After another semi-final victory for the Soviets in 1988, the sport opened to professionals.

Once again, the question became who would finish second. In Barcelona in 1992, with a squad featuring some of the world's best-known athletes - Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson and Larry Bird - the gold-medal winning US "Dream Team" gave an exhibition of basketball at its best.

After an NBA All-Star packed team finished only sixth during the recent FIBA World Championship in 2002, the question will remain if the winning streak of US teams can prevail in future Olympic Games.

Women's basketball hasn't been quite such a one-sided affair. Since it joined the Olympic programme in 1976, the gold medals have been divided between the US, the Soviet Union and, after the break-up of the Soviet Union, the Commonwealth of Independent States.

After a bronze medal in Atlanta and a Silver medal in Sydney, Australia may have their quest for the podium as well as the traditional powerhouse Brazil.


Basketball is played in 4 periods of 10 minutes each at the Olympic Games. Five-minute overtimes follow if a game is tied. Both the Men's and the Women’s basketball tournament is played with 12 teams, except the host country and the reigning World Champion all teams have to qualify through a continental championship a year in advance to the Olympics. A three-point line, or arc, around the hoop allows three points for baskets from beyond 6.25 metres and two points from inside that distance.


basketball Men                         basketball Women