SBP’s Barrios to fly to Geneva for Olympic qualifier draw
Joey Villar, Nelson Beltran ( - January 20, 2016 - 1:32am

MANILA, Philippines – Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas executive director Sonny Barrios will be on hand in Geneva on Tuesday to witness the drawing of lots to determine the groupings of the 18 teams slugging it out for the three remaining spots to the Olympic basketball competition in Rio de Janeiro in August.

Barrios leaves the country on Monday and is to return three days later to help immediately start preparation for the hosting of one of the three Olympic qualifying tourneys in July.

 “Boss MVP (Manny V. Pangilinan) has had a string of text messages after FIBA’s announcement of the three countries chosen to host the qualifying tourneys. The order is to set the meeting for the hosting preparation right away upon my return from Geneva,” Barrios told The STAR.

The FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tourney is the biggest basketball event the Philippines is hosting since the 1978 world championship and the 2013 FIBA Asia Championship. The event could well help unite the Filipino people and heal any wound that may be caused by the presidential election in May.

“What’s in Boss MVP’s mind is to make the Filipino people happy. He’s kept on asking me ‘masasayahan ba ang mga kababayan natin dito?’” said Barrios.

The SBP leaders are not much concerned with the groupings but with a hassle-free hosting of the huge cage event.

They are realistic Gilas Pilipinas would go through an uphill climb, three to four times tougher than what it went through in the FIBA Asia Championship in Changsha, China.

“As they say, the toughest teams we faced in FIBA Asia would be the lowest ranked teams in this event. We have a work cut out for us,” said Barrios of the Olympic world qualifiers featuring Angola, Canada, Czech Republic, France, Greece, Iran, Italy, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Puerto Rico, Senegal, Serbia and Tunisia.

After the Philippines (Manila), Italy (Turin) and Serbia (Belgrade) were chosen as the hosts, the FIBA invited Latvia, Croatia and Turkey to complete the 18-team OQTs roster.

Only the champion teams in the three qualifying tourneys earn a ticket to the Rio Games.

“I believe the operational part of the hosting is easy for us since we’ve just hosted the FIBA Asia Championship in 2013. Coach Tab Baldwin faces the tough challenge of doing what he can for the Filipino people to be happy (with the game results),” said Barrios.

“Without sounding over confident, the operational side would be very easy for us since we’re hosting only six teams, five visiting, compared to 16 in the FIBA Asia,” Barrios also said.

 “The learnings we had from FIBA Asia will be very useful here. Even the host venue, the MOA Arena, is already familiar with the management of the FIBA games. The only different is we’re dealing here with the FIBA head office, not the FIBA Asia people,” Barrios added.

Offhand, Barrios said they’re looking at the hotels at the vicinity of MOA Arena to house the guests. These include Sofitel, Solaire and City of Dreams.

“Then there’s the other requirement including the local transportation, publicity, merchandising etc. Again, without sounding cocky, this will be easy for us as we’ve just done the FIBA Asia,” said Barrios.

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