Three Olympic qualifying tourneys up after Fiba Asia
Joaquin M. Henson (The Philippine Star) - September 27, 2015 - 10:00am

CHANGSHA – While the winner of the FIBA Asia Championships here is assured of a ticket to represent the region at the 2016 Rio Olympics, it’s not a lost cause for the three other semifinalists.

FIBA recently announced the staging of three Olympic qualifying tournaments on July 5-10 to fill in the last three slots of the 12-nation joust in Rio de Janeiro. In 2012, the Olympic qualifying tournament was held in Caracas with 12 countries. This year, FIBA will hold three separate qualifying tournaments involving 18 countries, six in each.

So far, eight countries are guaranteed slots in Rio – host Brazil, reigning World Cup champion US, Oceania champion Australia, AfroBasket champion Nigeria, EuroBasket finalists Spain and Lithuania and FIBA Americas finalists Spain and Lithuania. A slot is reserved for the FIBA Asia champion.

The 12 slots in the Olympic tournament are for the host, the World Cup champion, the winners of the FIBA Asia, Oceania and AfroBasket Championships, the top two placers of the FIBA Americas and EuroBasket Championships and the winners of three qualifying competitions.

The allocation of slots for the three Olympic qualifying tournaments is broken down into five from Europe, three from the Americas, three from Asia, three from Africa and one from Oceania. The teams are the next best placers after the qualifiers from each FIBA zone. Three other slots are available for host countries which will be determined via a bidding process.

The minimum bid to host an Olympic qualifying tournament is reportedly 2 million Euros or the equivalent of P105 million. Countries are required to express interest in hosting by Sept. 28 and submit their bids by Nov. 11. FIBA plans to announce the hosts by the last week of November. There is speculation that Canada, Italy, Turkey, Russia and the Philippines may submit bids to host an Olympic qualifying tournament.

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 the Americas, the second, third and fourth placers are qualified, meaning Argentina, Canada and Mexico. If Canada bids and wins the right to host, the fifth Americas placer Puerto Rico is awarded a playing slot.

Teams that earned the right to play in the Olympic qualifiers so far are New Zealand from Oceania, France, Serbia, Greece, Italy and the Czech Republic from Europe, Argentina, Canada and Mexico from the Americas and Angola, Tunisia and Senegal from Africa. Slots will be given to the second, third and fourth placers of the FIBA Asia Championships.

If the Philippines finishes second or third or fourth at the FIBA Asia Championships here, it will mean a ticket to one of three Olympic qualifying tournaments. And if the Philippines wins the bid to host, the fifth placer of the FIBA Asia Championships will advance to the Olympic qualifiers.

At the moment, there is no indication from the SBP if the Philippines will bid to host because the goal is for Gilas to win the FIBA Asia Championships. A gold medal finish will mean automatic entry into the Olympics. The Philippines hasn’t played Olympic basketball since the 1972 Munich Games.

FIBA director of communications Patrick Koller explained the participation of Asia in the Olympic qualifiers. “Asia will have at least three teams qualified for the Olympic qualifying tournaments and possibly, a fourth if an Asian country bids and organizes one tournament,” he said. “The teams will be drawn for all Olympic qualifying tournaments but we will apply geographical principles. In other words, we should have at least one Asian team per Olympic qualifying tournament. If an Olympic qualifying tournament is organized in Asia, there will be two in one of the Olympic qualifying tournaments. Format of an Olympic qualifying tournament is two groups of three, each team to play the other two teams in the group, the top two teams to qualify for the semifinals and only the winner of each Olympic qualifying tournament will go to Rio.”

In an Olympic qualifying tournament, there will be only nine games, six in the two-group preliminaries, two in the semifinals and one in the final. The tournament will be over in five days, assuming no break in between phases. Hosting a tournament of this format will be easy but what is difficult will be winning it particularly as France, Serbia, Argentina and Canada are involved. It will be expensive to host a blitz tournament because of the minimum bid fee and the short duration that limits media mileage but for a country dreaming of playing in the Olympics, the aspiration may be worth the cost.


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