The draw to situate 18 participating countries in three Olympic qualifying tournaments will be held at the FIBA House of Basketball in this Swiss city, about a 10-minute drive from Geneva, at 6:30 tonight (1:30 a.m. tomorrow, Manila time) with the Philippines represented by SBP executive director Sonny Barrios as witness.
The Philippines, Italy and Serbia were earlier picked by the FIBA Executive Committee to host the three tournaments from a short list of eight bidders. The minimum bid was 1.8 Million Euros. Under FIBA’s strict rules of confidentiality, no amounts of the winning bids were disclosed.
The 18 participating countries are broken down into eight from Europe (France, Serbia, Turkey, Greece, Croatia, Italy, Latvia and Czech Republic), three from Asia (Philippines, Iran and Japan), three from the Americas (Puerto Rico, Mexico and Canada), three from Africa (Angola, Tunisia and Senegal) and New Zealand from Oceania.
Barrios left Manila for Geneva via Abu Dhabi last Monday after midnight and will be back Thursday night. While in Mies, he will confer with FIBA director of events Predrag Bogosevljev on matters relating to Manila hosting the Olympic qualifier at the Mall of Asia Arena on July 4-10.
“We are not informed at the moment of how the draw will be conducted but we understand it will be a modified draw based on geographical and quality principles,” Barrios said.
“Since Turin and Belgrade will host two of the three tournaments, that means there will be six European countries left to be drawn. We are expecting at least two European countries to be drawn in our group. FIBA will not want to overload a group with countries from the same zone. For instance, we don’t expect either Iran or Japan to be in our group.”
Barrios said Filipino fans will get a rare and golden opportunity to witness world-class competition in the Olympic qualifier. “This won’t be an exhibition or a tune-up or a pocket tournament,” he said.
“This is an important competition where a ticket to the Olympics is at stake. My view is the Olympic qualifier is at the level of the World Cup that Manila hosted in 1978. The Philippines has played in only one Olympic qualifier ever and that was in 1964 in Yokohama. We didn’t make it to the Tokyo Olympics but this time, it will be different because we’ll be hosting. The Olympic qualifier is a tougher challenge than the FIBA Asia Championships where we finished second in Changsha last year. But while our chances may be slim to win it, remember we’ve got our Sixth Man, the world’s Most Valuable Fans and that advantage could tilt the balance.”
Feature Photo Credit : Peter Baltazar