Asian nightmare in OQT

SPORTING CHANCE - Joaquin M. Henson - The Philippine Star

The idea of an Olympic Qualifying Tournament (OQT) in basketball to add late entries to the Summer Games has been nothing short of a nightmare for Asian countries. Since the first OQT was held in 1960, no Asian team has made it to the Olympics via this route. In the latest edition, three Asian countriesChina, South Korea and the Philippinesparticipated in separate OQTs and none won a single game.

The first OQT was in Bologna, Italy, preparatory to the Rome Olympics in 1960, as 18 teams battled for four Olympic tickets. Taiwan and Thailand were from Asia. Taiwan lost to Belgium, Canada and Germany while Thailand beat Sudan and Surinam but was defeated by Czechoslovakia and Spain so both countries failed to make it to the second round.

There were two OQTs before the Tokyo Olympics in 1964. The first was in Geneva and involved 14 European countries with Hungary and Finland advancing to Tokyo. The second was in Yokohama with the Philippines, South Korea, Thailand, Taiwan, Malaysia and Indonesia the Asian countries joining Mexico, Australia, Canada and Cuba in the 10-team competition. The top four placersMexico, Australia, Canada and Koreamoved up to Tokyo. The Philippines finished sixth, beating Malaysia, Taiwan and Thailand and losing to Mexico, Indonesia, Cuba, Australia, Canada and South Korea. The Philippines was coached by Tito Eduque and the team was made up of Ed Ocampo, Manny Jocson, Boy Arazas, Boy Marquez, Ciso Bernardo, Eddie Pacheco, Felix Flores, Sonny Reyes, Elias Tolentino, Turo Valenzona, Big Boy Reynoso and Ed Roque.

In 1968, two OQTs were held. The first was in Bulgaria for 14 European countries and the second in Mexico for five teams with Indonesia the only Asian competitor. Indonesia upset Australia, 58-51 but lost to Spain, Poland and Uruguay to miss the boat to Mexico City. The Philippines and South Korea qualified for the Olympics outright. In 1972, two OQTs were staged. The first was in the Netherlands for 17 European countries and the second was in Germany with the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea the only Asian entry. Korea finished 11th of 12. Host Japan and the Philippines represented Asia in the Olympics.

In 1976, Italy was the only team to advance from an OQT among eight European countries in Scotland and another OQT involving 13 teamsnone from Asiawas held in Ontario. Representing Asia in the Montreal Olympics was Japan. In 1980, an OQT was organized in Puerto Rico for seven teams from the Americas with the top three finishers advancing and another OQT was in Switzerland for 19 European teams. No Asian team was included in the OQTs and India represented Asia in the Moscow Olympics. In 1984, OQTs were held for the Americas and Europe, none for Asia. In the Los Angeles Olympics, China represented Asia in the 12-team tournament. It was the same system in 1988 with OQTs for the Americas and Europe. Host South Korea and China played in the Seoul Olympics. The Koreans finished ninth and China, 11th. In 1992, OQTs were again staged for the Americas and Europe as China was the only Asian entry in the Barcelona Olympics.

There were no OQTs from 1996 to 2004. Then, in Athens in 2008, the OQT was revived with 12 teams, including Asian entry South Korea, battling for three Olympic tickets. The Koreans were knocked out in the first round, bowing to Slovenia and Canada. In 2012, the OQT was in Venezuela with Jordan and South Korea the Asian teams among 12. Both Jordan and South Korean were winless in two games each. In 2016, three OQTs were held in Belgrade, Manila and Turin. The Asian entries were Iran in Turin, the Philippines in Manila and Japan in Belgrade. All three Asian countries failed to win in two contests apiece.

This year, the OQTs were in Canada, Croatia, Lithuania and Serbia. Asian countries remained winless since the OQT was resurrected in 2008. Its crystal clear that the OQT is not a viable pathway for an Asian country to make it to the Olympics.

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