Iran joins bidding derby

SPORTING CHANCE - Joaquin M. Henson (The Philippine Star) - October 27, 2015 - 10:00am

The Philippines isn’t the only Asian country bidding to host one of three Olympic basketball qualifying tournaments in July next year. Iran, third placer at the recent FIBA Asia Championships in Changsha, has thrown its hat in the derby and joins nine other countries, including seven from Europe, in the bidding process where the deadline to submit the final tenders is on Nov. 11.

The minimum bid is 1.75 Million Euros or the equivalent of P91.4 Million. Each country was required to submit a letter of intent to bid along with the administrative fee of 20,000 Euros or P1.05 Million to FIBA by Monday, Oct. 19. Because a strong typhoon was expected to hit Manila that day, SBP deputy executive director for international affairs Butch Antonio made sure there would be no delay and sent the letter with the fee on Friday, Oct. 16. Antonio said he didn’t want to take the chance of work being cancelled because of the typhoon on Monday.

FIBA acknowledged receipt of the letter and the fee by sending over a 136-page document called the Host Nation Agreement and the candidature file guidelines. A key requirement is to obtain a government guarantee for the bidding federation – in the Philippine case, it would be an assurance to back up the SBP. It’s a process that the Philippines is familiar with, having participated in the bidding for the 2019 FIBA World Cup and making it as a finalist before losing to China.

Iran’s entry was a mild surprise, considering it has never hosted the FIBA Asia Championships in 28 stagings since 1960. The Philippines, in contrast, hosted in 1960, 1973 and 2013. Iran has also never hosted any of the five FIBA Asia Cups so far since 2004. The only FIBA Asia events that Iran has hosted were the Champions Cup in 2007 and the U18 Championships in 2008. Tehran was the venue for the 2007 Champions Cup where the hometown Saba Battery took the crown. It was the only year that Tehran hosted in 24 Champions Cups since 1981. Manila hosted the Champions Cup in 1996, 2005 and 2011. The Champions Cup was not held the last two years.

 The other FIBA Asia event that Tehran hosted was the U18 Championships in 2008. Iran beat Kazakhstan, 95-76, in the final. The Philippines, coached by Franz Pumaren, wound up seventh. The Philippines has hosted seven U18 Championships in 1972, 1974, 1978, 1982, 1986, 1989 and 1993.

Aside from the Philippines and Iran, the other bidders are the Czech Republic, Germany, Greece, Israel, Italy, Mexico, Serbia and Turkey. Russia and Canada were previously mentioned as possible bidders but they were excluded from the list that FIBA announced the other day. Of the 10 bidders, seven have earned the right to play in the Olympic qualifiers by virtue of their finishes in the continental championships – the Czech Republic, Greece, Iran, Italy, Mexico, the Philippines and Serbia.

At the moment, 15 countries have been allocated slots to play in the three Olympic qualifying tournaments – five from Europe (France, Serbia, Greece, Italy and the Czech Republic), three from the Americas (Canada, Mexico and Puerto Rico), three from Africa (Angola, Tunisia and Senegal), three from Asia (Philippines, Iran and Japan) and one from Oceania (New Zealand). The 15 countries are the next best placers after the outright Olympic qualifiers from each FIBA zone. Three other spots are available for host countries to complete a cast of 18 for each six-team Olympic qualifying tournament.

 Hosts may be selected from the 15 countries in the Olympic qualifiers or from other countries that played in a continental tournament. If a country is among the 15 that earned the right to play in the Olympic qualifiers and wins the bid to host, the next non-qualified country in the continental championships will advance. In the Asian situation, if the Philippines or Iran is chosen to host, the fifth placer in Changsha – Lebanon – will be awarded a playing slot.

The three bidders who failed to gain a spot in the Olympic qualifiers are Israel, Turkey and Germany. In the recent FIBA EuroBasket Championships, Israel wound up No. 10, Turkey No. 14 and Germany No. 18. Champion Spain and runner-up Lithuania booked automatic tickets to Rio while the next five finishers were awarded slots in the Olympic qualifiers.

According to FIBA, the main evaluation criteria to determine the hosts of the three Olympic qualifiers are “player welfare (best possible conditions for players), stakeholder experience (first-class event for spectators, teams, media and broadcasters, commercial partners as well as other stakeholders … this includes venues filled to capacity and the provision of appropriate promotional strategy to achieve this goal), state-of-the-art facilities and infrastructure (FIBA aims at hosting events in high-level competition venues that meet or exceed its requirements), legacy (the event must bring benefits for basketball in the country, prestige and credit to the host nation and FIBA as well as being of support to the strategic ambitions of the entire basketball family) and commercial model (the event must be based on sound commercial and promotional initiatives and be financially successful).”

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. 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.”

There will be only five playing days in each Olympic qualifier. The six teams will be split into two groups of three. The first three days will feature two preliminary games each as teams play the others in their group once. Then, the top two from each group advance to the semifinals on the fourth day and the final will be on the fifth and last day. The three winners of each Olympic qualifying tournament will move on to join nine countries already assured to play at the 2016 Rio Olympics. The nine countries with tickets to Rio are host Brazil, reigning FIBA World Cup champion US, FIBA Oceania champion Australia, FIBA EuroBasket finalists Spain and Lithuania, FIBA Americas finalists Venezuela and Argentina, FIBA AfroBasket champion Nigeria and FIBA Asia champion China.

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