The European Wheelchair Basketball Championships are biennial wheelchair basketball competition contest by teams that come within the Europe zone governed by the International Wheelchair Basketball Federation. The championship holds so much importance as it is a qualifying tournament for the Paralympics and IWBF Wheelchair Basketball Champions.
The previous version of the European Wheelchair Basketball Championships was held in Frankfurt, Germany in which Britain won the men’s gold and The Netherlands won the women’s gold. In the 2015 edition of the European Championships, all eyes were on Britain as the defending champions and the host country of the games.
The 2015 European Wheelchair Basketball Championships took place in Britain at the University of Worcester. The event was arranged in a special 2000-seater complex and sports arena that was recently inaugurated, costing about £15 million. The event complex catered to the needs of nearly 400 athletes and 19 teams who came from different countries of Europe to compete in the tournament. The men’s tournament was participated by 12 teams which were split into two groups. The host Britain was put into group A alongside Czech Republic, France, Germany, Spain and Poland. Meanwhile the six teams that made up group B were Israel, Italy, The Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland, and Turkey. The 2015 European Wheelchair Basketball Championships also held so much importance as they were a perfect way to prepare for Rio 2016 Paralympics and qualify for them. In the women’s competition, the top four teams automatically qualified for Rio 2016, while the top five teams from the men’s side qualified for next year’s Paralymic games.
The announcement of the successful bid of the venue was announced by International European Wheelchair Basketball Federation President, Jan Berteling, during the Standard Life Continental Clash, taking place at the Arena.
British Wheelchair Basketball chairman Malcom Tarkenter upon wining the big for the venue said, “We are delighted to have won the bid to host the European Championships. It reaffirms the UK as a leading nation of the sport in Europe. Our partnership with the University is going from strength to strength, and we are looking forward to delivering a world class event with them, UK Sport and other partners we hope to attract from the local area.”
Simon Morton, director of major events at the UK Sports further added, “Along with our partners British Wheelchair Basketball and the University of Worcester, we are delighted to have won the bid to host the European Wheelchair Basketball Championships in 2015, a significant event in the build up to the 2016 Rio Paralympic Games. UK Sport’s National Lottery backed Gold Event Series has the ambitious goal of securing 70 of the world’s top sporting events following London 2012, and this would be a great addition to our growing portfolio of Paralympic events.”
Vice Chancellor of the University of Worchester, David Green, also expressed his gratitude to host the tournament. He said, “It is a huge honor to have been selected as the venue for the 2015 European Championships and is a testament, not only to the quality of our new Arena but also to the work of the University in supporting and leading the way in disability sport.”
Located at a distance from 800m from the Worcester Foregate Street Railway Station, the arena was easily accessible through trains or could be easily reached by car. Moreover, to assist the live audience, which was estimated to be around 15,000, live telecasting of the event was arranged so that live spectators from across Europe could watch it from the comfort of their homes.
British Wheelchair Basketball Director of Performance, Paul Davies said: “At London 2012 we saw first-hand the power and energy the British public can generate when they get behind their home side. We would urge families across Worcester to help the squad by getting behind their team when it matters the most – that’s right here, right now.”
Special arrangements were made for the spectators as the arena had a dedicated parking space to assist streamlined traffic flow. The spectators were given the benefit of an affordable fee of £3 per session for the parking area which could be accessed from the main entrance on the Hylton Road. Signposts were placed throughout the city to assist people with the directions the arena and special place for disabled people were also allotted in the parking space.
As the arena was hosting the Wheelchair Basketball Championships, provisions were made to assist the disabled spectators. There were three types of seating available in the complex; tiered seats were installed so that there was an unobstructed view of the games, flat seating areas were allocated for people who were on a wheelchair, and special areas were assigned for the ambulant disabled. All the toilets facilities throughout the arena were easily accessible with a wheelchair. Highly trained staff was put in charge of dealing with the disabled. Assistance dogs were also allowed access to the stadium and special arrangements like installation of induction loop audio systems were placed in different parts of the stadium to provide ease for hearing-impaired. Whereas food wasn’t allowed to be brought from the outside, different stands that provided hotdogs, drinks and other food items were placed around the stadium.
The final of the men’s gold medal game was played between Great Britain and Turkey in which the former beat the latter with 87 points to 66. For the bronze medal game, the final was played between Germany and Netherlands in which Germany beat Netherlands with a point difference of 75-56. For the men’s medal Great Britain came out on top with 7 Gold, 5 Silver, and 4 Bronze medals. And for the women championships, Germany got the highest of 16 medals in total.
The event got huge recognition as a lot of local businesses got involved in the championships as sponsors. Worchester also played host to International Wheelchair Basketball Congress and the British Wheelchair Basketball Awards Gala dinner which were held after the completion of the games and the whole event was termed as a huge success.