Philippines may bid for Olympic qualifier
Joaquin M. Henson (The Philippine Star) - August 25, 2015 - 10:00am

MANILA, Philippines - The Philippines will seriously consider to bid for one of three Olympic qualifying tournaments on July 5-10 next year if Gilas fails to win the gold medal and finishes 2nd, 3rd or 4th at the FIBA Asia Championships in Changsha on Sept. 23-Oct. 3.

MVP Sports Foundation president and Meralco PBA Governor Al Panlilio said over the weekend that there’s no doubt the Philippines will be ready to host an Olympic qualifying tournament. “I think we’ll be open to bidding,” he said. “I haven’t discussed it with MVP (SBP president Manny V. Pangilinan) but I’m sure if it will mean giving us an opportunity to play in Rio, we’ll consider it. We’ve hosted two legs of the FIBA 3x3 World Tour and we’re in line to host the World Tour Finals in 2017 so we’re definitely capable.”

Only the winner of the coming FIBA Asia Championships will earn an automatic ticket to represent Asia at the Rio Olympics. But the second, third and fourth placers will be given slots to compete in three Olympic qualifying tournaments. The three Asian entries will be spread out one for each tournament. An Asian country that fails to finish in the top four may play in an Olympic qualifying tournament if it bids and is awarded the right to host but must be “among the best non-qualified teams.”

The winners of each of the three Olympic qualifying tournaments will advance to Rio. Each tournament will be made up of six teams. The competition format is in each tournament, the six teams are split into two groups of three with each to play the other two teams in the same group and the top two of each group to qualify for the knockout semifinals. The semifinal survivors then play for the right to go to Rio in the final.

Hosting an Olympic qualifying tournament wouldn’t be a problem for Manila. It will require only one playing venue and the SBP could arrange separate practice arenas for every team. Arranging five-star hotel accommodations will also not be difficult.

The Philippines was a losing finalist in bidding to host the FIBA Asia Championships in 2013 and the FIBA World Cup in 2019. It lost to Lebanon in the bid for the 2013 FIBA Asia tournament but eventually staged the competition after Lebanon backed out due to civil unrest. Early this month, the Philippines lost to China on a 14-7 vote of the FIBA Central Board in the bid for the 2019 World Cup.

“The easy choice was China to host the 2019 FIBA World Cup,” said Panlilio. “But I think the Philippines made a compelling bid. The difference was China is ready to host tomorrow while we’re still working on our infrastructure. So it wasn’t only the easy choice but also the safe choice. In fact, it probably was a no-brainer because of China’s vast resources. Still, there was an extended debate before the vote was announced. The 14-7 vote may not be indicative of how close it was. There had to be a lot of undecided voters, those in the middle, who made up their mind only in the end to swing it for China. That would explain the delay in announcing the vote. Against a giant like China, we were at least able to make the Executive Board think twice. It was unfortunate that we were up against China. If we went up against Germany or France, I think we would’ve won hands down.”

Panlilio said he’s wondering what it will take for developing countries like the Philippines to dislodge powers like China from dominating bids to host world events because of the discrepancy in resources. “I hope someday, developing countries are also given a chance to show the world what they can do,” he said.

Panlilio said looking forward, the SBP must begin to plot how to address the issue of forming a competitive national team for the FIBA World Cup in 2019. The qualifying format involves six windows over a two-year period starting in November 2017 and proceeding to February, June, September and November 2018 and February 2019. The participating teams will increase from 24 in Spain last year to 32.

As host, China will be given an automatic slot so that leaves seven tickets for qualifiers from the combined zones of Asia and Oceania. The other slots are broken down into five from Africa, seven from the Americas and 12 from Europe.

“Let’s assume Australia and New Zealand will take two of the seven slots for Asia and Oceania,” said Panlilio. “That would mean five slots for Asia, outside of China. The five slots could go to Iran, South Korea, Chinese-Taipei, Lebanon and the Philippines, not necessarily in that order. So that gives the Philippines a great opportunity to play in the World Cup again. The problem is the schedule of the qualifying windows conflicts with the PBA season. It’s the same problem with the NBA and other Asian leagues.”

Panlilio said it would be unfair to pull out players from their mother teams in the middle of the season. “The SBP and PBA should sit down soon to discuss our options,” he said. Possible alternatives are to expand the Gilas Cadets pool and keep it intact, augment the Cadets pool with PBA players if and when possible, tap a PBA team to play in some qualifying windows for the country so chemistry isn’t an issue and form a Gilas squad of PBA players to practice at least once a week so it is ready for instant mobilization.

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