Much talk was made about how eager the Philippines was to host the 2013 FIBA Asia Men's Basketball Championship. In the days leading up to the final announcement, a Philippine contingent flew to Tokyo, where the FIBA Asia Cup is now being held, to make a presentation to the FIBA Executive Board, in support of our country's bid.
Lebanon and Iran were also interested to host the event, but neither showed the same enthusiasm. Unfortunately, when all was said and done, Lebanon was chosen as host, to the disappointment of many Filipinos, especially those who were part of the effort in trying to bring the prestigious regional tournament here.
In the aftermath, the disappointment was not so much that the Philippines was not chosen, but more of why Lebanon was chosen. Social network sites were flooded with comments and opinions on the matter, with many of the popular personalities in the Philippine basketball expressing disgust, accusing the whole process of being rigged, and lamenting the fact that the Philippines was, again, not given a fair shake.
Yahoo! contributor Patricia Hizon reported on the matter as objectively as she could, explaining that the Philippine contingent, led by no less than SBP Chairman Manny Pangilinan, Executive Director Sonny Barrios, and even with PBA Commissioner Chito Salud on hand, emphasized the various aspects of readiness the Philippines has to host the event.
Patricia said, "The SBP showed that they surpassed all the requirements, which included hotels, a main and secondary playing venue, practice gyms being in close proximity of each other; having more than the required transportation, cuisine and extensive medical care if needed; media and government support, and the backing of the entire basketball community." Apparently, this was not enough.
Cool as her news report on the matter was, Patricia expressed her extreme disappointment on Twitter. She said she was depressed that the Philippines lost the bid, because she had had so many sleepless nights. Why? Well, Patricia was, among others, the one that prepared the video presentation and the bid kit for the Philippine contingent. On her personal website, she asked for prayers that the Philippines would win the bid, "not just for Philippine basketball, but for this entire basketball crazy country x x x PARA SA BAYAN!"
After learning that the bid went to Lebanon, Patricia said that she kept watching the video over and over, and could not see anything she missed out on. Of course, she later stated that we will never really know how the voting went, and that the members of the Executive Board surely have their reasons for choosing Lebanon.
My PBA colleague Quinito Henson, however, was more vocal about his take on the matter. Also on Twitter, Quinito said that he could not believe Lebanon won it, since there was no better bid than ours. He went on to say that FIBA Asia Secretary-General Hagop Kajirian had told the Philippine contingent that Lebanon was not a serious bidder, but after the results, it seems Hagop took us for a ride. According to Quinito, Barrios and ex-FIBA Asia Secretary-General Moying Martelino were very disappointed and called the decision "shocking."
Normally, an open bid is precisely that — everyone interested can pitch their offer forward, and it is up to the Executive Board to decide who amongst the bidders fits the criteria. However, the circumstances surrounding the failed Philippine bid reek of much-dreaded politics in sports once again, which is something the Philippines, of course, is used to. It does not make the decision any less painful for those that worked hard to bring the tournament to our country. Quinito even went on to say that the presentation of Lebanon was done by their star player, Fadi El-Khatib, who was wearing a "short-sleeve shooting shirt with ID sticking out of backpocket."
Commissioner Salud also expressed his sentiments on the matter, saying that he felt the presentation was more than adequate, but that it was a pity that the Executive Board did not feel the same way. Gilas Pilipinas Coach Chot Reyes, never one to mince words, was quoted as saying, "Pinapunta pa si (MVP) at si (Commissioner) Salud, ibibigay din pala sa lugar na malapit sa gyera at player lang ang nag-present."
Quinito feels that the decision was already made even before presentations began. After the Philippine presentation, there was much applause. El-Khatib said that the Executive Board did not ask him any questions after he presented for Lebanon. For all we know, the Executive Board may have been equally impressed. Allegedly, Lebanon has new basketball facilities and can handily host the tournament. Maybe El-Khatib, even if not dressed in a spiffy suit and not being a high sports official of his country, gave the presentation of his life and eloquently expressed his country's desire to host the tournament. We will never know.
As some sort of consolation (Consuelo de bobo?), though, the Executive Board announced that, should Lebanon hit a snag in its preparations and be unable to host the tournament next year, then the Philippines would be the second option. How soothing.
It is indeed wrong to hurl accusations and try to condemn the decision, especially when based purely on speculation and circumstantial evidence. I feel the disappointment of those who were heavily involved in preparing the Philippines' bid and for those that truly desired that the tournament be held here, which would have been the first time since 1973. We should try again to win the bid in the future. If Lebanon cannot deliver, then we should rise up and be gracious hosts, even if we were only the second choice, precisely because we campaigned that we are the "most-ready." As usual, we have to roll with the punches and keep our spirits high.
It is impossible to know what actually transpired in the room where the Executive Board held its final meeting. Who are we to say if the bidding was rigged? Oh, one last thing. Hagop is from Lebanon. Wala lang. Just saying.
You can follow Charlie Cuna on Twitter @Charlie C.
Editor's note: The blogger's views do not represent Yahoo! Southeast Asia's position on the topic or issue being discussed in this post.