Olympic qualifying system to be revised

Joaquin M. Henson - The Philippine Star

MIES – The qualifying system to determine the last three entries in men’s basketball at the Rio Olympics will be applied for the last time by FIBA with a new format in place starting the 2020 Tokyo Games.

FIBA held the draw to situate the 18 participating countries in three Olympic qualifying tournaments in this Swiss City, near Geneva, last night (2:30 this morning, Manila time). Results of the draw were not available at presstime. Last week, FIBA chose the Philippines, Italy and Serbia to host the three qualifiers, ending a process of selection that had a short list of six bidders.

For this year’s Olympics, nine countries have booked tickets with the remaining three slots to be awarded the winners of the three qualifying tournaments. The nine countries are the US as the 2014 FIBA World Cup champion, Spain and Lithuania for finishing 1-2 in EuroBasket, Venezuela and Argentina for placing 1-2 in FIBA Americas, China for topping the FIBA Asia Championships last year, Australia as FIBA Oceania titlist, Nigeria for winning the FIBA Africa Championships last year and host Brazil.

The 18 countries vying for three Olympic slots in the qualifiers are Angola, Canada, Croatia, Czech Republic, France, Greece, Iran, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Mexico, New Zealand, Philippines, Puerto Rico, Senegal, Serbia, Tunisia and Turkey.

The Olympic qualifying system was institutionalized by FIBA in 2008 with 12 teams vying for the last three Olympic tickets. The second and third placers of the FIBA Asia Championships were among the 12 teams. The Olympic qualifying tournament is the last chance for countries to make it to the Olympics after failing to book tickets from the five continental or zonal championships in Europe, Americas, Africa, Asia and Oceania. In the 2008 tournament in Athens, the three teams that made it to the Olympics were Greece, Croatia and Germany. In 2012, the tournament was staged in Caracas with FIBA Asia’s Lebanon and South Korea among the 12 countries that participated. The three that advanced to the Olympics were Russia, Lithuania and Nigeria. This year, the Olympic qualifying format is totally different from ever before.

Before the 2008 event, FIBA held six Olympic qualifying tournaments – in Bologna in 1960 with 18 teams, in Yokohama in 1964 with 10, in Monterrey in 1968 with five, in Augsburg in 1972 with 13, in Hamilton in 1976 with six and in five Spanish cities in 1992 with 25. Different formats were employed in the qualifiers. The Philippines has participated in only one Olympic qualifier in 1964. There were 10 teams battling for three tickets to the Tokyo Olympics and the survivors were Mexico, Australia and Canada.

To allow more countries the chance of advancing to Rio, FIBA conceived the idea of staging three Olympic qualifiers and conducted a bidding to pick the hosts. The minimum bid was 1.8 Million Euros. Aside from the bid, the main evaluation criteria were player welfare (best possible conditions for players), stakeholder experience (first-class event for spectators, teams, media and broadcasters, commercial partners and all other stakeholders), state-of-the-art facilities and infrastructure, legacy (the event must bring benefits for basketball in the country, prestige and credit to the host nation and FIBA in support of 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).

For the 2020 Olympics, tickets will be given to the top two Americas, top two Europe, best Africa, best Asia and best Oceania finishers at the 2019 FIBA World Cup in China. A slot will be allocated for host Japan. The remaining four slots will be given to the winners of four Olympic qualifying tournaments of six teams each. The Olympic qualifiers will bring in 24 countries, broken down into the 16 best remaining teams at the World Cup and eight more (two each from the FIBA regions of the Americas, Africa, Europe and Asia/Oceania).

SBP executive director Sonny Barrios, who is in town to represent the country at the draw, confirmed that the Mall of Asia (MOA) Arena will be the venue for the Olympic qualifiers on July 4-10. “We expect an overflow crowd for all the games,” he said. “For this reason, we are seriously considering to provide closed-circuit coverage in movie theatres all over the country. We’re also planning to put up giant screens in open parking lots but we run the risk of being rained out. This will be a major basketball event. It won’t be a regional tournament, it will be a world tournament.”

Barrios said FIBA has inspected the MOA Arena’s facilities in the past and is aware of its high standards. The Olympic qualifier will split the six teams into two brackets of three each. Groupmates play each other once then the top two placers advance to the knockout semifinals with the survivors to battle for the Olympic ticket.

“We’ve got to be aware of the quotient system because if the three teams end up with identical 1-1 records in the preliminaries, the quotient will decide which two teams go to the semifinals,” said Barrios. “In the FIBA system, there is no playoff to break a tie in the standings. The tournament will feature five playing days. July 5, 6 and 7 will be for the preliminaries with two games each day then we’ll take a break on July 8. The two semifinal games will be held on July 9 and the final on July 10.”












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