Luxury liner to house U.S. hoops teams

Posted: Wednesday, August 11, 2004

ISTANBUL, Turkey - When LeBron James steps aboard the Queen Mary 2 this week, his U.S. Olympic teammates won't be the only constellation of stars he can see by daylight.

The Cavaliers standout can wander the 14 decks of the luxury liner, stopping to feast at any of the 10 restaurants or lounge at one of the five swimming pools before sauntering into the planetarium.

"There's a planetarium?" teammate Carmelo Anthony (Denver Nuggets) said. "Oh, I'm going everywhere on the Queen Mary."

USA Basketball officials are not confirming the team will stay aboard the Queen Mary 2 during the Summer Olympics, even though it has been widely reported.

Craig Miller, a spokesman for USA Basketball, has said the team never reveals its housing plans for safety concerns. USA Basketball, the U.S. Olympic Committee and the Athens Olympic Committee worked together to decide the "location," Miller said.

From attending seminars on global economics to playing miniature golf, members of the U.S. men's basketball team can do almost anything on the $800 million Cunard Line vessel.

Except win the gold medal.

But they should be able to squeeze in a few round-robin games between basalt stone massages at the 20,000-square-foot Canyon Ranch SpaClub.

"I'm very excited about it," James said of staying on the ship known as the QM2.

"They say it's a wonderful thing. They have everything on there, things that hotels don't even have," James said.

Such as three 23-ton anchors and the ability to relocate at the speed of 28.5 knots.

Simply put, the Queen Mary 2 is the largest, longest, widest, tallest, swiftest ocean liner in the world. And it's just a slight upgrade from the Olympic Village, where the majority of athletes will reside during the next three weeks.

The Queen Mary 2, launched in January, is 1,132 feet long - or just 117 feet shorter than the height of the Empire State Building.

"It's so big, I'm not sure I'm going to know I'm on a boat," U.S. assistant coach Gregg Popovich said.

Since the U.S. national team began using NBA players in 1992, it has been housed in lavish quarters.

While hammer throwers and triple jumpers aren't regulars at the Four Seasons, basketball co-captains Tim Duncan (San Antonio Spurs) and Allen Iverson (Philadelphia 76ers) are used to a certain level of comfort for road games.

The players and their families are sure to get it in suites that measure anywhere from 381 to 2,249 square feet.

Miller, the USA basketball spokesman, said the men's and women's teams are staying at the same place. With 1,310 staterooms, there's a chance their paths won't cross.

The Queen Mary 2, which can handle 2,620 passengers, also is expected to be a temporary home for some Olympic officials and dignitaries.

The ship is to be docked in Piraeus Harbor, which already has been swept for mines and figures to be one of the most heavily guarded areas in Athens. Greece is spending more than $1.5 billion on security for the Games that begin with opening ceremonies on Friday.

That has not stopped some NBA players from begging out of invitations. Seattle SuperSonics guard Ray Allen said the thought of staying on a ship reminded him too much of the USS Cole, the American destroyer attacked by al-Qaida terrorists four years ago.

"If I didn't think it was completely safe, I wouldn't be here," James said of his Olympic travels.

James' mother, Gloria, was in Turkey and attended Tuesday's U.S. win against Turkey in Istanbul, the final game in the team's European exhibition tour. Utah Jazz forward Carlos Boozer, a Juneau-Douglas High School graduate, will be joined in Athens by his wife, CeCe.

Boozer said he would have been satisfied with Olympic Village lodging but appreciates USA Basketball's generosity.

Guests making the 15-day trans-Atlantic trip (July 28-Aug. 12) from New York to Athens paid anywhere from $2,309 to $61,249, according to a Cunard Line press kit.

"It's a lot different environment from where many of us came from," Boozer said.

The Queen Mary 2 is home to the world's largest floating library and the only seaworthy planetarium, which seats 150.

Guests can take part in seminars and discussions on a variety of educational topics thanks to a partnership with the University of Oxford.

James will be happy to know there is a miniature golf course to go along with a driving range. "I don't do golf, but I will putt-putt," James said.

The NBA Rookie of the Year has spent much of his free time in Europe lounging in five-star accommodations and playing video games.

Think the ship's 1,253-member staff can scare up a copy of the Madden Football 2004?

"I'm not the guy to write your travelogue," James said. "I'm not into sightseeing."

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