FILIPINO basketball fans were left heartbroken by the decision of Fiba on Friday to give the hosting of the 2019 Basketball World Cup to China.
While a Philippine presentation built around the country’s passion for basketball and a very active social media campaign anchored on the haashtag #PUSO2019 was impressive, Fiba’s decision to pick China was also easy to understand.
Spin.ph takes a look at the five keys to China’s win over the Philippines in the bidding war for the 2019 Fiba World Cup.
1) Experience in hosting major sporting events
While China's presentation was pretty straightforward, it flaunted what voters in the Fiba Central Board needed to know. Asia's economic powerhouse has hosted several major events over the last seven years beginning with the 2008 Olympics. China had also hosted the 2010 Asian Games and the 2014 Youth Olympic Games, and had held a few preseason NBA games. In 2022, 14 years after hosting the Summer Olympics, Beijing will also stage the Winter Olympic Games - the first city to host both Games. China definitely drove home the point that ‘More Than Ever,' the country should host the 2019 Fiba World Cup.
2) Government guarantee
China didn't have a Hollywood actor to anchor its pitch before the Fiba Central Board, but it brought the people that mattered. Retired NBA star Yao Ming was just the cherry on top. What mattered were the bigwigs present from the country's Olympic body, top officials of the hosting cities and government bigwigs. And in the communist nation, a government backing is more secure than any bank guarantee.
3) Magnificent Eight
Beijing will lead the way in China’s hosting of the Fiba World Cup with Nanjing, Suzhou, Wuhan, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Foshan, and Dongguan also hosting games. While the set-up may pose logistical problems for most countries, China was able to convince the board that it can pull it off, with each city having enough infrastructure both for the games, the delegations, and fans. Heck, they promised 100,000 hotel rooms for the quadrennial games and they weren't even exaggerating.
4) Big market
China offered the biggest and best possible stage for basketball's premier spectacle - the world's biggest economy. Flaunting both its strength in numbers and its giant economy, China didn't need to put in much effort to convince Fiba board members that this nation with over a billion people is the next frontier for one the world's fastest-growing sports.
And since we're trying to get to the bottom of this, we might as well add a fifth factor, which, we're convinced, is the single biggest reason that swayed the pendulum in China's favor. Really? Yes, really.
5) Fiba politics
Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) officials led by Manny V. Pangilinan sure have come a long way in repairing the country's relationship with the world basketball body since the dark ages of the Basketball Association of the Philippines era when the Philippines was banned from all international competitions due to infighting among its ranks. MVP himself is now a member of the powerful Central Board and nurtures a relationship with Patrick Baumann, the secretary-general who in truth runs Fiba's affairs.
But we now know that the SBP is still to get a significant foothold in the politics within the world body, or at least not enough to swing the votes in the Philippines' favor during Friday's voting in Tokyo. We lost 7-14 in the final ballot, not because our presentation or bid was inferior, but because the lines were already drawn even before the balloting was done. If you doubt this, you can only look back at the bidding battle for the 2013 Fiba Asia championship back in 2012 in Tokyo where a team of heavy hitters from the Philippines dressed in chic suits made a great pitch - only to lose out to Lebanon which was represented in the final presentation by two men wearing jogging pants with their tournament IDs tucked in their back pockets.
It was probably poetic justice that the 2013 Fiba Asia hosting right was eventually awarded to the Philippines, but that dumbfounding 2012 Tokyo debacle showed us that in such an endeavor, the die was already cast even before the presentations were made.