THE moment of truth comes for this basketball-crazy country as the Philippines makes one final push on Friday that it deserves to host the 2019 Fiba World Cup.
A powerful cast of personalities who shares a common passion for the game will make the pitch on behalf of 100 million Filipinos in a 20-minute presentation at the Conference Room C of the Prince Park Tower Hotel in Tokyo, Japan which it hopes would persuade the 23-man Fiba Central Board to choose the country over bid rival China.
China will be the first to make its presentation before the Fiba Central Board starting at 4 p.m. after which the Philippines gets its turn.
A closed-door question and answer between the bidding country and Fiba officials will follow, after which the Central Board begin deliberating and casting their votes.
Once the voting is over, Fiba will formally announce the winning bidder at around 6:30 p.m.
The event considered the Olympics of basketball has not been staged in the Philippines since 1978.
Thirty seven years of waiting has been long enough, so much so the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) has come up with the slogan ‘basketball is coming home’ as part of its bidding strategy along with the hashtag #PUSO2019 which is so far trending on Twitter.
At the helm of the campaign is no less than SBP president Manny V. Pangilinan, whose ambitious plan to bring over the world basketball championship has gotten the support of no less than boxing legend Manny Pacquiao and Fil-Am Hollywood actor Lou Diamond Phillips.
Both Pacquiao, who is playing-coach of Mahindra (formerly KIA Motors) in the PBA, and Phillips flew all the way to the Japanese capital to support the Philippines’ campaign.
Another celebrated basketball individual in Fil-Am NBA champion coach Eric Spoelstra was also invited to be a part of the Filipino group, but unfortunately, couldn’t make it to the event, according to former Gilas Pilipinas coach Chot Reyes.
“We did (invite him), but he couldn’t make it,” said Reyes when asked about the Miami Heat coach.
Pangilinan will be the lead player as he opens the presentation complete with an audio visual show. Reyes and former Gilas Pilipinas speaker Jimmy Alapag will then have their turn to speak before the Fiba Central board, while Phillips will have the closing remark.
The Philippine delegation rehearsed its audio-visual presentation twice yesterday, 1 1/2 hours in the morning and 1 1/2 hours in the afternoon. A final rehearsal is scheduled for an hour on the morning of the presentation.
The SBP chief said he’s prepared to accept Fiba’s decision, one way or the other.
“We’re giving it our best shot,” said the SBP president, who will be joined by Secretary of Foreign Affairs Albert del Rosario, Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez and Octagon Asia Pacific president Sean Nicholls in the panel for the question-and-answer session.
“The presence of our government officials in Tokyo is a clear message that the public and private sectors are united in supporting our bid. The whole country is backing our bid,” said Pangilinan.
Pangilinan and SBP vice chairman Ricky Vargas met with Fiba president Horacio Muratore and Fiba secretary-general Patrick Baumann late Thursday afternoon to iron out details of the proceedings.
Baumann asked Pangilinan if he would like to witness the voting of the Central Board. Although it will be a secret ballot, Pangilinan begged off from attending in a gesture of statesmanship even as he is a Central Board member.
The Chinese head of delegation, Beijing vice mayor Cheng Hong, would have been invited if Pangilinan chose to attend.
Other dignitaries who flew in from Manila for the event were Rep. Robbie Puno, Rep. Rey Umali and Tourism Promotions Board chief operating officer Domingo Enerio.
The PBA is represented by chairman Patrick Gregorio, president/CEO Chito Salud, media bureau chief Willie Marcial and Blackwater alternate governor Wilbert Loa.
Pangilinan said President Aquino himself has endorsed the project with a government guarantee.
Jimenez met with the Chief Executive last Wednesday to explain the details of the Philippine bid, with Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima, Department of Budget and Management Secretary Florencio Abad and Secretary to the Cabinet Rene Almendras in attendance.
The Department of Tourism submitted a briefer to the President with a four-year projection of how the country may benefit from staging the Fiba World Cup.
The President designated Jimenez to sign on the country’s behalf if and when the bid is awarded to the Philippines today.