Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) Executive Director Sonny Barrios said on Tuesday that he expects an overflow crowd for the five playing days of the FIBA Olympic qualifier that will be held at the Mall of Asia (MOA) Arena from July 5 to 10 and to make the games accessible to a wider audience, there are plans for a closed-circuit coverage in movie theaters across the country and to set up giant screens in town plazas and open parking lots.
FIBA split the 18 participating countries into six “pots” of three each where those in a “pot” would not be drawn to play in the same tournament. France, Serbia and Greece were in the first pot. Italy, Czech Republic and Canada were in the second. The Philippines, Iran and Japan were in the third. Angola, Tunisia and Senegal were in the fourth. Latvia, Croatia and Turkey were in the fifth. Mexico, Puerto Rico and New Zealand were in the sixth. It was explained that the countries were picked for a pot on the basis of geographical and competitive balance.
Barrios said the Philippines would join five others in the Olympic qualifier in Manila. The six teams will be split into two brackets of three each. Groupmates will play against each other once in the preliminaries and the top two placers advance to the knockout semifinals with the survivors disputing the ticket to Rio. The preliminary games will be held on July 5, 6 and 7. There will be a break on July 8 then the two semifinal games will be played on July 9. The final will be on July 10.
“We admit our chances of winning the tournament are slim but you can’t discount the factor of our Sixth Man,” said Barrios. “At the 2013 FIBA Asia Championships, we saw how our team was inspired by the homecrowd. For the first time in FIBA history, we witnessed the wave. No one was surprised when at the FIBA World Cup in 2014, the Philippines was named the country with the Most Valuable Fans.”
The Philippines hasn’t participated in basketball at the Olympics since 1972. To make it to Rio, the Philippines must top the Olympic qualifying tournament it will host. “It’s the first time we’re hosting an Olympic qualifying tournament,” said Barrios. “We played in an Olympic qualifier in 1964 in Yokohoma but we didn’t make it to Tokyo. Now, we’re hosting and it will make a big difference.”