BASKETBALL patron Manny V. Pangilinan led the celebration after the Philippines was named one of the hosts of the three Olympic Qualifying Tournaments in a meeting by the Fiba Executive Committee on Tuesday night.
"Happy for Pinas. Happy for our people," the outgoing head of the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) told Spin.ph in a text message, shortly after Fiba announced from Geneva that the Philippines, Serbia and Italy will host the wildcard qualifiers - each tournament staking a ticket to the Rio Olympic Games.
Pangilinan's ebullient mood was in stark contrast to the disappointment the country felt after the SBP lost out to China in a bidding war for the right to host the 2019 Fiba World Cup of Basketball.
This time, Pangilinan took the time to thank Fiba, especially secretary-general Patrick Baumann as Gilas Pilipinas looks forward to playing before home fans on July 4-10, eyeing its first Olympic stint since 1972.
"God bless Gilas, God bless our country," said the businessman-sportsman. "Doing it for the love of the sport and our millions of Pinoy basketball fans worldwide."
The Olympic qualifier will be the biggest sports event to be staged in Manila since the 2013 Fiba Asia Championship, where Gilas finished runner-up to Iran to earn a return to the World Cup in 2014.
SBP deputy director for international affairs Butch Antonio said they are keen to put their best foot forward in the July qualifiers, to prove that the country is capable of hosting a world-class event.
“Winning it (hosting) is one thing, putting our act together and putting things in order is another thing. We have to make sure that when we host, we have the best hosting, of the three pa nga if possible,” Antonio said.
“It’s time to show we’re capable. Let’s savor this achievement. It just shows that the Philippines is definitely on the Fiba map, we’re now a regular fixture,” he added.