- 30 Jul 08, 02:18 PM
Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, et al tuned up for their assault on Olympic gold with a couple of matches here against Turkey and Lithuania, so down I rushed to the ludicrously massive Venetian Hotel - twice the size of the Vegas version on which it's based and capable of holding a staggering 20,000 people - to join the media scrum.
Not that the US squad were shunning the cameras and microphones - James, at a towering 6ft 8ins, and, with an annual salary of $40m, the best paid player in the NBA took time out from grooving to the tunes on his headphones to tell us that representing the USA is "10 times better than anything else."
As for his "guarantee" that they'll walk off with the gold, he says the players deserve to feel pressure, after they could only take bronze in Athens: "We believe we are the best team in the world, we have to play like it."
They face the hosts in their opening game on 10 August and it is definitely one for the diary.
The confidence of the basketball stars contrasted with that of a group of past champions facing a sterner test in their group games - the British men's hockey team.
Since the abiding memory of their stunning Olympic gold at the 1988 games they've failed to improve on sixth place and, 20 years on from Seoul, expectations remain rather modest.
In the group stages in Beijing they'll face Holland, standard-bearers of hockey exellence for many years and defending champions Australia.
British head coach Jason Lee told me, with brutal honesty, Australia are "largely untouchable" while British captain Ben Hawes assured me they've made big strides since a ninth placed finish in Athens, if they don't get anything from the Dutch or the Aussies, a medal will once again prove elusive.
"If we play at the top of our game and if we get lucky," explained Lee, "we could win a medal.
"That will also apply to London 2012. There's nothing to suggest we wouldn't need luck."
Defeatism or harsh realism?
Well first up, the coach thinks the heroics of the class of '88 have become a rather unfortunate hockey stick with which to beat the rest.
"The physical side of the game has changed so much since then" he explains, "I doubt whether some of them could have coped with the pace of the game now."
So, if medal chances are slim or worse for this Games and the next, is the longer term picture just as bleak?
Inevitably, money plays its part. With a rather resigned look the coach informs me that even the nations ranked below the UK get more funding, but he's quick to add that it's not just about cash, it's about developing a sporting culture that will nurture skills at an early age.
"By the time they become adults," says Lee, "the danger is that we can't help them."
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