May 20 ------ THE Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) is keeping a positive mindset as it restarted preparations for the next FIBA World Cup which the country will co-host in 2023. SBP president Al S. Panlilio hopes everything will be back to normal by then to be able to allow hordes of fans into stadiums to watch major sporting spectacles such as the so-called ‘Olympics of basketball.’ Just last week, FIBA announced the scheduled playing date of the FIBA World Cup, which will run from August 25 to September 10 and co-hosted by the Philippines with Japan and Indonesia.
Panlilio is keeping his fingers crossed everything will be COVID19-free by the time the best basketball countries travel to the Philippines, Indonesia, and Japan for the World Cup. “Hopefully naman by 2023 meron ng vaccine so maayos na. It’s still two or three years away, not too far, but hopefully by that time, maayos na yan,” said Panlilio. If ever, the SBP president even sees the country’s World Cup hosting as the first major basketball event to be held in the post-coronavirus era. “That might be the first major basketball tournament of that scale that will happen. COVID-free and I think back to normal where you have 15,000 to 20,000, 25,000 fans in the venue na magkakadikit,” said Panlilio.
He added even the Olympics which was forced to reschedule its staging from July this year to summer of 2021, still faces uncertainty in terms of people watching in the venue. “Even the Olympics is a question (mark). How will you watch it or what you expect in terms of the spectators in the Olympics. I think it is going to be difficult,” said Panlilio, who also sits in the PBA board as representative of Meralco. The World Cup returns to the Philippines since the country last hosted the event in 1978. Panlilio said Smart Araneta Coliseum – venue of the meet 42 years ago - and the Mall of Asia Arena will be hosting the group stage of the tournament, while similar matches are going to be held simultaneously in Okinawa, Japan and Jakarta, Indonesia. “For the group phase, it’s going to be Araneta and MoA, although we need to have some work for Araneta to be able to get the standard FIBA wants us to achieve,” said Panlilio.
It’s off to the Philippine Arena come the knockout phase. “Of course the playoffs starting with the quarterfinals and up, will be in Philippine Arena,” said Panlilio, president of Smart Communications Inc. “All eight teams will come over to the Philippines.” While admitting it’s already a bit delay in its preparations following the outbreak of the pandemic, Panlilio said the three countries co-hosting the event have been in constant communication with FIBA officials through tele-conferencing. By the end of the month, he said some nitty-gritty details of the hosting will be decided. “We started meeting over videocon. Our next task is to already go to a briefing, yan ang unang activity namin. As in any event, ang una diyan yung theme and logo. We did some surveys even pre-COVID days and FIBA has shortlisted two already,” said Panlilio. “We will see the presentation of the logos and theme this month with the two countries and FIBA in attendance,” added the SBP president. “It’s the start of the (World Cup) journey already.”