IF there was any consolation to the PBA being forced to postpone Game 6 of the Governors’ Cup Finals between Meralco and Barangay Ginebra, it was the fire that hit the Smart Araneta Coliseum not happening during the game itself.
Commissioner Willie Marcial dreaded the thought of such an unfortunate incident.
“Buti nangyari na lang na wala pang mga tao,” said the commissioner, who personally inspected the Big Dome following the incident.
The fire hit while the PBA 3x3 grand finals was ongoing, with just one more game between Barangay Ginebra and Platinum Karaoke still be to be played before the knockout phase.
After evacuating players, teams, and staff inside the venue, the PBA decided to suspend the rest of the 3x3 games, and later, Game 6 of the finals just to ensure the safety of everybody.
Following a pandemic record of 18,251 in Game 5 won by Ginebra to take a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven title series, the league anticipated a crowd of around 19,000 to 20,000 on Wednesday as the Kings look to finish off the Meralco Bolts.
“Kaya suwerte pa rin talaga tayo na ngayon agad nangyari at hindi kalagitnaan ng Game 6,” said Marcial.
The incident is also the first in the history of the 62-year-old stadium that hosted some of the iconic events in sports history such as the ‘Thrilla in Manila’ in 1975, the birth of the PBA that same year, the 1978 World Basketball Championship, and the ‘Flash’ Elorde-Harold Gomes bout for the world lightweight championship in the 1960 during its inauguration, among others.
Marcial said the worst thing he ever recalled happening was seeing the ceiling of the Big Dome collapse at the height of a heavy rain while a PBA game was being played.
“May nangyari na bumagsak yung kisame dahil sa lakas ng ulan. Crispa (ang naglalaro), tandaan ko yun, e. Kalagitnaan ng game yun, kaya tumigil tayo,” Marcial recalled.