P1.05M fee sent to FIBA for hosting bid

MANILA, Philippines - The SBP remitted the sum of 20,000 Euros or the equivalent of P1.05 million to FIBA late last week to confirm its intent to bid for the hosting rights of one of three Olympic qualifying tournaments in July next year.

FIBA has since acknowledged receipt of the "administrative fee" and sent a 136-page document called the Host Nation Agreement and the candidature file guidelines to the SBP. The deadline for countries to submit their final bids is on Nov. 11. The nine-man FIBA Executive Committee will convene in the international federation's head office in Mies, Switzerland, on Nov. 23 to choose the three hosts of the Olympic qualifying tournaments. The next day, a draw will be held to situate the 18 countries in the three qualifiers, "applying geographical and quality principles to balance the groups."

So far, the only Asian country to signify the intent to bid is the Philippines. Iran and Japan are the other Asian countries listed in the initial pool of 15 countries entered in the Olympic qualifiers by virtue of their finish in the continental championships. The Philippines, Iran and Japan placed 2-3-4 at the recent FIBA Asia Championships in Changsha.

Other countries showing interest to bid are Mexico, Canada, Italy, Turkey, Russia, Germany and Serbia. Of the eight prospective bidders, three failed to earn the right to play in the qualifiers - Turkey, Russia and Germany. Hosts may be selected from the countries qualified to play or from countries that played in a continental or regional championships without qualifying. If a country that qualified wins a bid, the next non-qualified country in the continental championships will advance. In the case of Asia, if the Philippines is chosen to host, the fifth placer in Changsha - Lebanon - will be awarded a playing slot.

The recent FIBA EuroBasket finalists Spain and Lithuania claimed berths in the 2016 Rio Olympics. The next five placers - France, Serbia, Greece, Italy and the Czech Republic - gained tickets to the Olympic qualifiers. Turkey finished No. 14, Russia No. 17 and Germany No. 18. The other countries in the Olympic qualifiers are New Zealand from Oceania; Angola, Tunisia and Senegal from Africa and Canada, Mexico and Puerto Rico from the Americas.

SBP deputy executive director for international affairs Butch Antonio said the candidature file guidelines are similar to those that were sent out for the bidding of the 2019 World Cup. "We're in the process of studying the guidelines carefully," he said. "We've got the experience of bidding for the World Cup and we hope this experience helps us in winning the bid. We still don't know if there will be final presentations made before the Executive Committee deliberations."

Antonio said only one venue is required for the Olympic qualifying tournament. The format of each qualifier will involve two groups of three, each team to play the other two teams in the preliminaries with the top two from each bracket advancing to the semifinals and the winners to dispute the lone ticket to Rio in the final. The winners of the three Olympic qualifiers will complete the 12-team cast for Rio. Already booked for Rio are nine countries - host Brazil, reigning World Cup champion US, FIBA Oceania champion Australia, AfroBasket champion Nigeria, FIBA EuroBasket finalists Spain and Lithuania, FIBA Americas finalists Venezuela and Argentina and FIBA Asia champion China.

Antonio said there will be only five playing days in the Olympic qualifying tournament. The first three days will feature two preliminary games each. Then, the four survivors will clash in the semifinals on the fourth day and the final will be on the fifth and last day. A break in between the preliminaries and semifinals will stretch the duration of the tournament to six days. Each team is assured of playing in at least two games.

The Philippines has technically lost in two previous bids to host a FIBA tournament. The first was when the Philippines lost to Lebanon in the bid to host the 2013 FIBA Asia Championships. That was decided in Tokyo in 2012. But Lebanon eventually gave up its right to host because of civil unrest, allowing Manila to stage the 2013 tournament by default. The second was when the Philippines lost to China in the bid to host the 2019 FIBA World Cup. That was decided in Tokyo this year.

Considering the composition of the 15 teams entered in the three Olympic qualifying tournaments, it's likely that the five European teams will be spread two each in two groups and one in the third group, the three teams from Asia, Africa and the Americas one in each group and New Zealand in the group with one European team. It's possible that the hosts will come from Europe, the Americas and Asia to provide a wide geographic coverage of the Olympic qualifiers.

Antonio declined to speculate which group the Philippines will land in. "If we are picked to host, maybe, the next non-qualified Asian finisher, Lebanon, will be brought to our group," he said. "But everything is subject to speculation at this point. The draw will decide which team goes where."

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