Sonny Barrios, FIBA execs hold crucial talks

Three hours before the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament draw ceremony on Tuesday at the House of Basketball in Mies, Switzerland, Sonny Barrios, executive director of the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas, will sit down with Predrag Bogosavljev, FIBA sport and competitions director, to discuss various concerns regarding the country’s hosting of one of the forthcoming OQT competitions.

Barrios sought the appointment with the former Yugoslavian junior player on the instructions of SBP president Manny V. Pangilinan who wants preparation for the Olympic qualifier hosting to get underway immediately. A meeting with the SBP head and federation officials has also been set upon Barrios’ return on Wednesday.

FIBA awarded OQT hosting rights to Manila, Belgrade (Serbia) and Turin (Italy) a few days ago and 18 countries – Angola, Canada, Czech Republic, France, Greece, Iran, Italy, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Philippines, Puerto Rico, Senegal, Serbia, Tunisia, Latvia, Croatia and Turkey – will be divided into three groups via the draw and battle from July 4-10 for three slots made available to complete the Olympic cast in Rio de Janeiro in August.

The format calls for each six-team OQT to be halved into two pools, with the three teams per bracket playing a single round robin. The top two then meet their counterparts from the other pool in a crossover semifinals, with the winners clashing for the all-important Olympic berth.

“Mr. Pangilinan is leaving nothing to chance in making sure the staging of the OQT will be a huge success,” said Barrios. “Concerns like formation of the LOC , venue, transportation, security, hotel accommodations, IT and media accreditation have also been calendared for discussion right after I return.”

The draw ceremony is set at 6:30 p.m. Geneva time on Jan. 26 or around 1:30 a.m. on Jan. 27 (Manila time).

The Mall of Asia Arena, site of Gilas Pilipinas’ unforgettable silver medal finish under Chot Reyes in the 2013 FIBA Asia Championship which qualified the Philippines to the FIBA Basketball World Cup in Spain the following year, will again be the official venue for the Manila OQT.

FIBA’s announcement that Manila has been chosen as one of the three hosts, Barrios said, has sparked an early burst of interest among Filipino basketball fans who this early have begun making inquiries and reservations for tickets six months before the tournament, even without knowing the cost of tickets nor the make up of the competing teams.

“The hosting fever has started,” said Barrios, who is drafting a letter for FIBA secretary-general Patrick Baumann, thanking him for choosing Manila as one of the OQT hosts and assuring him the tournament will be in good hands.

End it