Head to head, if we compare our 100-million-strong nation to the 1,400-million strong giant that’s China, we’re dwarfed. That’s why we appealed to the heart. Puso. We spoke about our heart. Our puso. That, despite our smallness and lack of height — both as a people, compared to Westerners; and as a nation, compared to China — that we have the heart. The fighting spirit.
We came so close. If this were an Olympic contest, we reached the finals. The gold was within our reach. But, in the end last Friday, when the FIBA Central Board gathered to decide on the host of the FIBA Basketball World Championships four years from now, we lost.
As close as we were, the final tally wasn’t close. It was 14-7. Heading towards Tokyo last week, I’m sure the members of the FIBA board already decided on which letters to choose: CHN or PHL.
As important as the final presentations were, I’m sure there was intense lobbying in the months prior to last weekend. The final vote was a formality. Still, what an accomplishment. As my colleague (and sports editor) Mike Limpag aptly put it last Sunday, the Philippines will have a mighty difficult time hosting an event as huge as, say, the Asian Games (with 10,000 athletes). But the FIBA World Cup — given that as few as four venues make us eligible — was within our grasp.
If there’s one video clip that you ought to see, it’s this one: “FIBA 2019: Philippines’ bid presentation.” Go to YouTube, type those words and you’ll be treated to an inspiring and enthusiastic presentation. I don’t want to be a “movie spoiler” but the show and the words uttered were outstanding. If the contest revolved purely on presentation, we’d have won.
Manny V. Pangilinan opened the 20-minute final proposal. Highly-respected not only in the business community but also in the basketball world, MVP spoke of this day being one of his proudest.
Lou Diamond Phillips was very, very passionate. Born in Subic, the movie actor and director was animated. He spoke from the heart when he talked about the Filipino heart. Next up was the man who best symbolizes the small-player/big-heart of the Pinoys. He’s Jimmy Alapag. He was fluent and motivating. Coach Chot Reyes was also very passionate. Finally, the most famous Pinoy on earth, it was Manny Pacquiao who pitched for us. Watch the video! You’ll enjoy it and will feel inspired.
Had the Phils. won the bidding, it would have been a major, major 2019 for Cebu sports. Because apart from the Phil. Arena, the Smart Araneta Coliseum and SM’s MOA Arena, our very own SM Seaside City Arena would have been the fourth venue. Imagine the world’s greatest ballplayers (NBA stars) visiting?
In the end, China was too big and Yao Ming was too tall an opponent. China’s eight city-venues and world-class infrastructure — plus, this will be their first-ever FIBA World Cup hosting — were too compelling.
I thought our age-old Pinoy adage “Give others a chance” would come into play. China hosted the 2008 Olympic Summer Games. Come 2022, they’ll host the Winter Olympic Games. Maybe the decision-makers will choose the Philippines, to give “others a chance?” Ha-ha. No chance.