Philippines poised to record biggest crowd ever in a game if it clinches 2019 Fiba World Cup hosting
Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas president Manny V. Pangilinan leads the country's serious bid to win the hosting rights of the 2019 Fiba World Cup. Jaime Campos

THE Philippines could set a new world record as far as attendance in a basketball game is concerned if and when the country wins the hosting rights for the 2019 Fiba World Cup.

The newly-opened Philippine Arena in Bulacan boasts of a seating-capacity of 55,000 and has been inspected by the visiting Fiba Evaluation Commission as possible venues for the world basketball championship four years from now.

The standing record for crowd attendance in a basketball game is pegged at 32,616 during the gold medal match between USA and Russia during the 1994 Fiba World Cup at the Rogers Centre (formerly Skydome) in Toronto, Canada.

Although the prospect of entering the Fiba record books is enticing, Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) president Manny V. Pangilinan said expectations should be tempered.

The SBP official explained Fiba expects to see no less than a ‘quantum leap’ in hosting the 2019 edition of the world championship.

“In the wrap-up session this (Friday) morning, it was very clear that in terms of the context which Fiba would wish 2019 to be staged anywhere in the world, whether it’s here or any part of the world, they would wish to see, to use Mr. (Patrick) Baumann’s (Fiba secretary general) word, a quantum leap in the quality of events,” Pangilinan told sports media during Friday’s press conference for the visiting Fiba executives held at the Makati Shangrila Hotel.

“This (World Cup) is a global event, and should it be held in the Philippines, they would want to see a significant improvement in the quality of the event in 2019.”

Part of the expected quantum leap in hosting the event iinclude among others, issues on hotel accommodations, telecommunications, involvement and support of Philippine government, electric power and the five possible venues where the games will be played.

Of the five, three are already existing led by the Smart Araneta Coliseum, site of the 1978 Manila world championships, the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City, and the Philippine Arena.

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Two other venues, which have yet to be built, included the state-of-the-art basketball stadium in Cebu and the one to be put up by the Solaire Group of Co. under businessman Enrique Razon.

But Fiba Evaluation Commission chairman Lubomir Kotleba said one distinctive flavor the Philippines can provide should it win the hosting rights is the warm reception Filipino fans are known the world over.

“What should I say, it’s puso, and puso is not only in the arena, but the puso is everywhere. We see the strong emotional dedication approach of the bid from your federation. We also saw the puso everywhere we go because spectators are warm, strong,” said Kotleba, a Slovakian. 

“We have seen them not only in arena here, but we have seen them also in Spain (in the 2014 Fiba World Cup) and wherever I go around the world, I see quite often in Gulf countries, I see a strong Filipino community playing basketball on a very competitive level, supported by puso,” he added.

Aside from Kotleba, other Fiba officials currently in Manila for the inspection and evaluation of the country’s hosting bid include Baumann, Serbian Predrag Bogosavlev, and Dutchman Frank Leenders.

The deadline for submission of the final bid documents is on April 30, while the final bid presentations and announcement of the host nation by the Fiba Central Board is in July. 

Aside from the Philippines, also bidding are Germany and France along with China, and Turkey.

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