Someone asked me how my blog and newspaper column came to be titled "Bleachers Brew". It's like this, it's an amalgam of sorts of two things: The bleachers area in the stadium/arena where I used to sit when I would watch baseball, football, and basketball games and Miles Davis' great jazz album Bitches Brew. That's how it got culled together. I originally planned on calling it "The View from the Big Chair" that is a nod to Tears For Fear's second album, Songs from the Big Chair. So there.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Looking at losing that FIBA World Cup bid

This appears on

Looking at that losing FIBA World Cup bid
by rick olivares pic borrowed from fiba

The bids by China and the Philippines are a study in contrasts. 

You can actually say that China’s bid was rational and calculating while the Philippines’ bid was emotional. Very kurot sa puso as we like in our telenovelas and films. But sadly, as much as it tugged at my heartstrings, I wondered how this would resonate to men of different cultures who think differently.

Listening to China’s bid, the strengths they outlined -- veterans in hosting world-class events, existing world class venues, efficient transportation system, efficient media management — were our very own weaknesses. 

The 2013 FIBA Asia is the biggest one the Philippines has hosted in recent memory aside from the traditional Southeast Asian Games. That paled in comparison to China’s impressive hosting resume.

The venues we have are pretty good even if the venue in Cebu has yet to be built. But that leads to the traffic situation in Manila that is getting horrendous by the day. If that is terrible then our public transportation system is worse. We don’t need a world-class event to galvanize solving that problem. It should be on top of this country’s priority list.

As for media management. Sadly, the facilities for this are really wanting. I remember how foreign journalists would complain about the poor internet during the FIBA Asia. 

So when FIBA Secretary General Patrick Baumann announced the innovations that are set to take place on 2019, it is entirely possible that they didn’t want to gamble with the infrastructure and go with a country that is tried and tested. 

As per the criteria set forth by FIBA, it is the ability to:
    meet FIBA’s commercial, operational, and venue requirements
    field a competitive national team
    have a strong sport development programme
    and leave a lasting legacy for the event

Okay. Fine.

But I can’t help but think of Indianapolis in 2002. They only had two venues — the Conseco Fieldhouse and the RCA Dome for all the teams! So what if there were only 16 teams then as opposed to the 24 now. They’re not even a media hub. Okay, they host the largest single day sporting event that is the Indy 500. But still. 

How about Saitama in 2006? They had five venues with only the Saitama Super Arena the only with more than 10,000 seating capacity (21 thousand to be exact). The Philippine arena seats more than all those five venues combined. Furthermore, Saitama was only founded as a city in 2001 after three prefectures were merged. Now if you check the legacy portion of the criteria, basketball in Japan is lagging way behind baseball and football. Sure they have a lot of teams but the sport as a whole is struggling.

In 2010 in Istanbul, the popularity of basketball wasn’t because of the NBA (especially in a football-mad country like Turkey). Believe it or not, it was an American television show, “The White Shadow” that was about grassroots hoops. The game even before the FIBA hosting was popular and it has grown even more in this country. Who did Turkey beat in the hosting bid? France. And to think more countries voted for these two than the united Balkan States that banded together in an effort to host the 2010 games. And these Balkan countries are really basketball mad.

And for the 2014 games, wasn’t Spain mired in an economic recession at that time?

And look who is bidding for the 2023 games — Germany, Qatar, and Turkey. Turkey hosted in 2010 so why are they back in the picture? 

So I cannot figure out the rhyme or reason for these countries winning the bids. If you go back into the FIBA World Championships, in its early years many of the games were held in South America where FOOTBALL IS KING. So is it growing the sport? Is it economic power?

You want more proof of how strange the decision making is during the bidding for the 2013 FIBA Asia Championships, Lebanon was awarded the right to host with the Ghazir Club Court as its main venue. Hold on boys and girls because that venue seats only 4,500 people. 

Somehow, I feel like that this is like applying for a VISA. You’ll never know if you’ll get it. Like when I applied for a Schengen VISA months ago, there was this family that had previously traveled all over Asia that was denied a chance to go to Europe while this family that had never traveled before was granted one. Go figure.

I guess, it is like the Ms. Universe contest where it isn’t necessarily the prettiest woman who wins the title. 

You might say that tugging on heartstrings isn’t enough. Of course it isn’t. That is why the Philippines’ bid stated the economic growth and the love for the game that will ensure that the venues are packed. If on short notice, the Philippines picked up the bid for the 2013 FIBA Asia after Lebanon was taken off the hosting rights following war in the region what more the Philippines with four years to prepare for 2019?

Losing the bid is painful. The country is beginning to make a name for itself in the international arena and this would be the crowning glory (next to an Olympic or FIFA World Cup hosting bid) and this would have left a real lasting legacy. And whether we like it or not, there’s the matter of the Spratly Islands where China was annexed islands that belong to us. We can’t do much militarily in the Spratlys issue then we get bushwhacked in a game that we call our own. IT. HURTS.

Now let me leave you with one sobering fact. We like to say that the Chinese have an acumen for business. And on the day of the bid, sans emotion, it was all cold blooded business. No frills. No fancy slogans.

And now they are FIBA World Cup hosts.

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