Tom Degun: Basketball stealing the show at Youth Olympics
Situated in the heart of Singapore’s busy major shopping belt at Orchard Road, the *scape Youth Space is a two-hectare space of land that has been set aside as an iconic community space for youths.
And it is this futuristic looking venue that is quickly becoming the place to be at the 2010 Singapore Summer Youth Olympic Games.
The reason being is that this location is playing host to the basketball. Not basketball as you and I recognise it though because this basketball has revolutionary new and exciting format that you would expect at an inaugural Youth Olympics.
Rather than the usual 5-on-5 format you might be use to watching, it is 3-on-3 basketball debuting in Singapore. This is not the only exciting new move as in addition to this; the adrenaline-packed game is played on half a court with just one basketball hoop to aim, a system you would expect to use if you were playing basketball in the park with your mates.
With 14-18-year-olds going at it full throttle, some so talented that you can expect to see them in the NBA in the near future, the matches consist of just five minute sessions each. The first team to score 33 points - or the team leading the game after regular time - is the winner.
But it is not the changes made to induce fast-paced action that make this event so interesting. It is the brightly coloured stands that provide a view of the urban road outside as well as the court, the non-stop music blearing out from the loud speakers that seems to dictate the speed of the action and the young, screaming fans you might expect to be in attendance at a community space for youths that really bring this buzzing arena to life.
While the majority of the sports at these Youth Olympics are no different in structure to their counterparts at the senior Olympic Games, basketball has decided to be different.
Radical changes have been made to reflect the fact that were are actually at a Youth Games and basketball is reaping the rewards. Wherever you are in Singapore, the local people, particularly teenagers, are either talking about the action at the *scape Youth Space of flocking there in their droves to see it first hand for themselves.
The 3-on-3 games undoubtedly look great on television but when you are there in person, you really do feel the passion, energy and youth on display. When the Singapore teams are in action, these feelings only intensify as the home crowd are so deafening, your truly believe your eardrums are in real danger of imploding. Everyone is caught up in it though and even the "old guys" in the crowd - like London 2012 chairman Sebastian Coe who was among the spectators today - can be seen rocking from side to side as the hip hop, R&B and dance music plays.
It is fun, it is fast and the five minute matches are so quick, that you will one by simply blinking.
Come to Singapore and this is where the party’s at.
On the court, the skills on show are everything you would expect from a high quality game of basketball only more high-octane due to the fact that these short games are sprints rather than marathons.
In perhaps the only similarity to basketball at the senior Olympic Games, the United States is the dominant force and look like early frontrunners for the gold medal in both the male and female discipline.
The men’s team in particular never seem to miss and their star player Sterling Gibbs is so outrageously talented, it looks like he could soon be earning the big bucks back home with the likes of Lebron James, Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant.
All-round, it’s a great Youth Olympic Games so far but the *scape Youth Space is in danger of stealing the show here.
Yes, the Opening Ceremony was spectacular and expect big stories to come from a variety of the sports in Singapore over the next two weeks, but when it is all said and done, basketball will be the will be the real winner of these Youth Olympics and others disciplines should take note of their brave approach to making their sport appeal to the young.
No risk, no reward.
Tom Degun is a reporter for insidethegames