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All systems go at Clark

SPORTING CHANCE - Joaquin M. Henson (The Philippine Star) - June 16, 2021 - 12:00am

No less than Bases Conversion and Development Authority president/CEO, presidential adviser on Flagship Programs and Projects and deputy chief implementer of the National Action Plan Against COVID-19 Sec. Vince Dizon has assured smooth sailing at the FIBA Asia Cup third qualifying window involving seven teams in Clark starting today up to Sunday. Visiting teams began to check in last Sunday and the last to report is Thailand, scheduled to arrive today.

The word is all teams landed at Clark except China. Several changes have been made in the bubble layout from the PBA experience last year. Testing protocols are a lot stricter with teams required to do three before entering the bubble, once upon entering and another five days after entering. For a five-day tournament, thats a lot of testing and FIBA wouldnt have it any other way to guarantee safety for everyone. The estimate is 355 will be in the bubble, compared to about 350 with the PBA. Two hotels have been designated. The Quest Hotel is for teams, referees and FIBA and SBP officials while the Lohas Hotel is for TV and other staff. In the PBA bubble, it was two to a room. In the FIBA bubble, its one to a room.

Food is another big change. In the PBA bubble, food was delivered to every room. In the FIBA bubble, a sumptuous buffet is laid out for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The choices are varied from appetizers to main courses to dessert. The tournaments only game barker Noel Zarate, who has a gift of pronouncing every foreign name correctly, said teams eat at the ballrooms while officials go to the Cafe Mekeni, also in the Quest Hotel, near the piano lounge. “The PBA bubble had packed food for over two months,” said Noel, a gourmet. “Food delivery is not allowed now, owing to the buffet nature.” An accomplished piano player, Noel has found time to tickle the ivories at the hotel lounge, for sure to the delight of his growing army of fans.

Head statistician Fidel Mangonon, whos in the bubble with three staffers, said a test game was played the other day to check out the efficient roll-out of systems. FIBA players didnt join but Fidel said it was fun watching buddies like Chu Villar, Miggy Mendoza and Mark Solano go up and down the court. And yes, the systems worked perfectly. Fidel said two “stragglersattempted to penetrate the bubble by claiming they were assigned to do “live stats.” They were quickly turned away.

Testing with antigen will continue to be used,” said Dizon. “But PCR testing will be done prior to arrival. An isolation facility has been set up and it will be a hotel in Clark. Accommodation will be one per room unlike in the PBA where it was two per room. Food menu has been coordinated with FIBA. All the participants underwent pre-entry screening and testing. All bubble participants will be subjected to monitoring and screening during their entire stay. No audience will be allowed.”

FIBA medical compliance officer Dr. Jose Raul (George) Canlas said the testing is large-scale. “Serology tests (to determine past infection with a check of antibodies in the blood) is considered,” he said. “All positives will be worked out for possible false positives. Actual stay in the country is around seven days. This is extensive testing, considering its only a five-day tournament.”

Initially, Clark was to host teams from Groups A, B and C. But Guam and Hong Kong, both from Group C, were moved to play in Amman, Jordan, leaving only four teams in Group A and three in Group B (with Malaysia backing out). That will mean 11 games over five days with one tripleheader and four doubleheaders. The schedule of games is as follows: June 16 – 2:30 p.m. Japan vs China, 6 p.m. Philippines vs South Korea; June 17 – 2:30 p.m. South Korea vs Indonesia, 6 p.m. Chinese-Taipei vs China; June 18 – 2:30 p.m. Japan vs Chinese-Taipei, 6 p.m. Philippines vs Indonesia; June 19 – 2:30 p.m. China vs Japan, 6 p.m. Thailand vs South Korea; June 20 – 11:30 a.m. Indonesia vs Thailand, 3 p.m. Philippines vs South Korea, 6:30 p.m. China vs Chinese-Taipei.

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