Follow the World Cup on Facebook
Global Ambassadors Nowitzki, Yao in attendance for sold-out inaugural day of World Cup in Beijing
BEIJING (China) - There has not been a bigger stage in basketball than the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 in China, with the flagship event played in a 32-team format and including a record number of the game's stars from all around the world.
And the tournament hosts China passed the first test at the Wukesong Sport Arena with flying colors, getting off the mark with a 70-55 victory over Cote d'Ivoire on Saturday in front of a delighted crowd, which included two fan favorites in Dirk Nowitzki and Yao Ming, both FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 Global Ambassadors.
In Beijing for the start of the competition, the recently-retired German legend Nowitzki received a warm reception during the presentation of the Naismith Trophy at halftime, as part of the Trophy Tour presented by Aeroflot.
"BASKETBALL IS A HUGE SPORT HERE IN CHINA. THE ATMOSPHERE IS GREAT AND THE FANS ARE AMAZING."
Nowitzki also took over FIBA's Social Media platforms to offer live pre-game content in the opening day festivities.
"It's amazing. I'm glad to be here, it's an amazing venue," Nowitzki, who has taken part in two World Cups as a player himself, addressed the arena. "Obviously, basketball is a huge sport here in China. The atmosphere is great and the fans are amazing."
The opening game of the hosts was also graced by the presence of outgoing FIBA President Horacio Muratore, the newly-elected FIBA President Hamane Niang, and FIBA Secretary General Andreas Zagklis, as well as members of the 2019 Class of the FIBA Hall of Fame.
Meanwhile, former basketball superstar Stephon Marbury, Kelly Oubre of the Phonenix Suns, as well as Chinese celebrities Li Yifeng, Zhu Yilong and Bai Jingting, watched the game courtside.
View this post on Instagram
The Group A fixture between China and Cote d'Ivoire was one of the first eight games to be played in the World Cup, with action also tipping off on Saturday in Wuhan, Guangzhou and Foshan.
The four other host cities of Shanghai, Nanjing, Shenzhen and Dongguan will get to enjoy the top-level basketball starting Sunday.