Gilas Pilipinas fans can expect a fairly reasonable price for tickets during the Olympic Qualifying Tournament set from July 5 to 10 at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.
Butch Antonio, the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas’ deputy director for international affairs, said the country’s local cage federation and their MOA Arena counterparts are working towards giving local fans the chance to watch a top-tier cage action at the right price during the 6-day spectacle that offers a lone berth to the Rio de Janeiro Summer Olympics Games in Brazil in August.
Aside from host nation Philippines, 5 other countries, most of them bolstered by top NBA talents, are coming in Manila, led by France, the highest ranked among the hopefuls at No. 5, which could field the likes of San Antonio Spurs guard Tony Parker, Nicolas Batum of the Charlotte Hornets and Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert.
Canada could also bring in its youthful crew, led by Minnesota Timberwolves rising star Andrew Wiggins and Cleveland Cavaliers center Tristan Thompson, while Orlando Magic forward Ersan Ilyasova could suit up anew for Turkey.
Even Senegal has its own NBA talent in Timberwlves forward Giorgui Dieng while New Zealand will be composed of battle-tested cagers, led by guard Corey Webster.
“We will try to be as fair as we can,” Antonio told FOX Sports in a recent interview. “But you have to understand, this is an international competition with a first-rate quality basketball players.”
“It’s not just your regular All-Star Game that people don’t really take seriously. Here, you’ll see the best players of these countries, go for the kill, for that lone position of the Manila championships to make it to the Olympics. Bugbugan at bakbabakan talaga ‘yan,” he added.
“We don’t want to oversell tickets. And we also don’t want to undersell and not maximize the potential,” Antonio said. “That’s where we are right now. Hinihimay muna namin ng mabuti.”
Antonio also shared the SBP drew “positive feedbacks” from FIBA sports and competitions director Predrag Bogosavljev and FIBA Asia secretary-general Hagop Khajirian who checked the country’s preparations for the OQT and even inspected the MOA Arena facility last month.
“Their comments on our preparations were good,” said Antonio. “Through the course of the visit, they were identifying certain modifications and they were positive in giving recommendations. There aren’t too many deficiencies on our part so that’s good.”
Antonio added the two high-ranking FIBA officials are giving utmost importance to “certain rooms like the press area, press con area and doping center. They want to have more fluid movements among the players, fans, media personnel and the operations. They want to have a smooth flow. It was very productive. It was a one-and-a-half day inspection and they had a positive response.”
Antonio added the SBP management committee “wants to concentrate all our activities and logistics in all complex around the Mall of Asia Arena. There are things that we cannot control but we are trying to minimize the glitches like traffic, rains and floods by keeping them in hotels within and around the MOA Arena.”
Keeping the entire delegation secured is also tops on SBP’s agenda. “We are in close coordination with the PNP (Philippine National Police), MMDA (Metropolitan Manila Development Authority and the local government. It’s really part of our preparations. It’s not just hosting and putting them into hotels. It’s a whole network. Lahat ng contingent measures to deter any accidents, we have to be ready for that,” said Antonio. – By Jerome Lagunzad
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