SBP guarantees record crowd

Joaquin M. Henson (The Philippine Star) - January 25, 2015 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - If and when the Philippines hosts the FIBA World Cup in 2019, SBP executive director Sonny Barrios said yesterday a new record for attendance will be set as the country is out to prove why basketball is its No. 1 sport.

The official FIBA World Cup record for attendance is 32,616 in the final between the US and Russia at the Skydome in Toronto in 1994. The US, coached by Don Nelson, crushed Russia, 137-91, for the gold medal behind stars like Shaquille O’Neal, Reggie Miller, Shawn Kemp, Dominique Wilkins, Kevin Johnson, Steve Smith, Dan Majerle, Alonzo Mourning and Joe Dumars. The Skydome capacity for basketball is 22,911 expandable to 28,708 but the record books show that 32,616 came for the 1994 championship game.

The unofficial record is 35,000 for the title contest between the US and Brazil in Rio de Janeiro in 1954. That was when the Philippines finished third, the highest placing ever by an Asian country in the FIBA World Cup. A crowd of 25,000 was estimated in attendance for the 1950 championship game between Argentina and the US at Luna Park in Buenos Aires. It was also reported that crowds of 25,000 came for the 1963 games in Rio de Janeiro.

At the 2002 World Cup, the championship game was held at the Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis with a capacity of 18,345. In 2006, the Saitama Super Arena was the venue for the gold medal game with a capacity of 21,000. The 2010 edition took in up to 16,500 in Istanbul and in Spain last year, the Palacio de los Deportes de la Comunidad could only accommodate 13,383 for the final in Madrid. The largest venue for the 2014 World Cup was in Barcelona where seven games were played in the playoffs at the 16,386-seat Palau Sant Jordi.

Barrios said PLDT chairman/SBP president Manny V. Pangilinan himself assured a new world record for attendance as the plan is to hold the 2019 title game at the 55,000-seat Philippine Arena in Bulacan. Last October, the PBA held its season opener before 52,612 fans at the Philippine Arena to set a new league mark for attendance.

Barrios said the SBP is exploring creative scenarios in staging the World Cup with the goal of maximizing attendance for the games. At the World Cup last year, preliminary group-stage contests were held in four different venues before the playoffs were brought to Barcelona and Madrid. A possible scenario would be to cross group lines at least for the opening program, possibly at the Philippine Arena, to draw a capacity crowd. That could bring games involving the US and the Philippines in the same venue even if they are in separate groups. The scenarios are subject to approval by the FIBA technical committee. The Philippine Arena could be the venue for the opening and the closing games which should draw a combined attendance of 100,000.

Tomorrow, the four-man FIBA evaluation committee will arrive in Manila from three different points of departure to begin a five-day visit to inspect the facilities proposed for the 2019 World Cup and discuss plans with the SBP in connection with the Philippines’ bid to host the event. Other countries bidding for the hosting rights are China, Turkey, Qatar, Germany and France.

The four-man committee is composed of FIBA Central Board member/FIBA Oceania president Burton Shipley of New Zealand, FIBA director of events Predrag Bogosavljev of Serbia, FIBA director-general of media and marketing services Frank Leenders of the Netherlands and FIBA adviser/ambassador of quality officiating Lubomir Kotleba of Slovakia. FIBA secretary-general Patrick Baumann of Switzerland will fly in on Thursday to confer with the evaluation committee, meet SBP officials and attend a private dinner hosted by Department of Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario.

The winning bidder will be announced during the FIBA Central Board meeting in Geneva on June 18-19. Barrios said the early decision will allow the host a four-year window of exposure to promote the country and the event. “This will be a major boost to tourism,” said Barrios. “There will be 32 countries participating in the World Cup and the global exposure for the host is significant. This will not only showcase our organizational skills and Filipino hospitality but also our ability to merchandise and market an event with a global magnitude.”

The evaluation committee’s program begins on Tuesday morning with a briefing by the SBP. Then, the committee will make an ocular inspection of the Philippine Arena. The SBP will take the committee to lunch at the EDSA Shangri-La Hotel and in the afternoon, to Sofitel for another ocular visit. The rule of thumb is hotel accommodations for the teams, referees and officials should be within a 20-minute radius of the playing venues. A meeting with the SM Group is also scheduled that afternoon to discuss the plans for the SM Cebu Arena. That night, the visitors will be special guests at the opening of the PBA Commissioner’s Cup at the Mall of Asia Arena.

On Wednesday, the committee will fly to Cebu to check out the site where the SM Cebu Arena will rise. A lunch meeting is being prepared to be hosted by Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama and SBP official Yayoy Alcoseba. The visitors return to Manila in the afternoon for a meeting with the Solaire Group which will present its plans for the 16,000-seat Solaire Arena. That night, Pangilinan will host a dinner for the visitors with the country’s major basketball stakeholders from the PBA, UAAP, NCAA, PBA D-League and leagues, legislators and sports leaders including Philippine Olympic Committee president Jose Cojuangco, Jr. and Philippine Sports Commission chairman Richie Garcia. Among the legislators to be invited are Sen. Sonny Angara, Sen. Koko Pimentel, Rep. Robbie Puno, Rep. Yeng Guiao and Rep. Manny Pacquiao.

More meetings are scheduled on Thursday morning before Baumann’s arrival. In the afternoon, Baumann and the committee will sit down with SBP officials for clarificatory talks. Secretary del Rosario will host dinner that night for the visitors at the Bureau of Treasury building in Intramuros.

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