Jill Biden crashes party, 3×3 basketball

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The Olympic Village is no longer party central for obvious reasons this year but we think we’ve found the closest thing to a rowdy night out in Tokyo.

Mingling has been made difficult by Covid-19 restrictions and athletes need to jet out of Japan as soon as their event is over, instead of hanging around and soaking up the experience for the remainder of the two weeks as they would normally be able to do.

Finding any signs of life in Tokyo is tough given it’s under a state of emergency and spectators are banned. There’s hardly any promotion of the Games around the city

, because of the Japanese public’s hostile response to the Olympics going ahead while the country struggles to come to grips with its health crisis.

But in its first ever appearance at an Olympics, 3×3 basketball is doing its best to fill the atmosphere void, operating as part sporting event, part nightclub.

The competition clearly has pulling power. French President Emmanuel Macron and Jill Biden dropped by to watch France vs USA in the women’s draw on Saturday, while Chinese NBA legend Yao Ming was in the house earlier in the day — all 229cm of him. He made his seat and everyone around him look absolutely tiny.

As the American First Lady stepped out of her armoured car she was quickly surrounded by about 30 people including minders, security guards, Olympic officials, journalists and photographers. Social distancing went out the window upon her arrival as she caused quite a frenzy.

The wife of US president Joe Biden attracted a bigger crowd on her own than what most events in Tokyo will see as empty stands become the new normal.

Pop, rock and rap music played not just before and after games, but during them too. Daft Punk and Jay-Z were on the playlist and stars regularly asked their teammates to repeat themselves as they got drowned out by some bangers — or what would have been bangers if we were back in 2010. Like a G6? Come on Tokyo, you’re better than that.

Local dance troupes of more than 20 took to the court before matches to entertain what amounted to the crowd too, where it was more pop and lock than Nutbush City Limits. It must have taken Biden and Macron great restraint not to bust out into a boogie as the sun went down.

There are signs in the Japanese capital reminding people they can clap but not cheer (thanks Covid) but that was completely disregarded at the intimate outdoor stadium, as sound reverberated around the venue.

An on-site commentator acted partly as a play-by-play announcer, but more as a hype man as his booming voice – interspersed among the tunes – made every dime and every block sound like the greatest play in basketball history.

Played on a court 15m wide and 11m deep, 3×3 teams score two points for draining buckets from outside the arc and one point for finding the hoop inside. They also need to take the ball outside the two-point line when they gain possession before they can score, the sport resembling a pick-up game more than anything you’d see in the NBA.

Matches are 10 minutes long — though time off is called at every stoppage — and teams have 12 seconds on their shot clock. It’s extremely fast and physical as tactics revolve around shooting in space from long range or driving to the rim and pushing through contact for a lay-up.

Each side has one substitute and although 10 minutes seems like a short amount of time, every player comes off the court gassed and drenched in sweat.

If scores are tied — as was the case in Poland’s clash against Japan yesterday — then it goes to sudden death overtime. No time is put on the clock and the first team to score two points wins.

In Saturday night’s instance, that was Poland, who drained a two-pointer after the home team scored single point with a lay-up.



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