Let’s use 'Puso' to build our Nation
MANILA, Philippines – Weeks after the country lost the bid to host the 2019 FIBA World Championships to China, the reasons for the decision begin to be clearer. The euphoria of the process has simmered and it’s beneficial to review the experience in the hopes that we can do better next time.
Let me state upfront that the attempt was a success. Not being awarded the role is not the gauge. Given where we started, the resources we had and competing with first world nations, being shortlisted versus China is by itself a cause for celebration.
The heart for basketball
The bedrock of our pitch was that we love basketball probably more than any other country in the world. In fact, the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) is the only real, long lasting, biggest professional sport league we have. College basketball also makes TV ratings soar and having a basketball hoop in practically every corner of the country strengthens this argument.
There was no doubt that the whole country, every Filipino basketball fan, was involved in the bid. This was evidenced by the trending of the #PUSO2019 hashtag which was being flashed on the screen live. This revealed that as the Philippines was presenting, the numbers of followers kept increasing in real time.
The process and hard work
The whole process in fact began in July of 2014 when the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) submitted the formal bid to host the event. But even before that all the elements to be able to submit that bid was already being brought together.
I remember that late last year, I met Mr. Sean Nicholls of Octagon Asia Pacific. This was the sports management consultant group brought in to provide an outsider's perspective and to guide the core planning team. In our short conversation he said that infrastructure, experience and trust would be key to the final decision of FIBA management.
This undertaking is not a simple event management project. It necessarily brought together key government officials along with private sector representatives to see this through. In short, this was a project of national importance. It was a rallying point. The upside of winning the bid will be evident economically, politically and culturally. It was not for all intents and purposes just a sporting event.
In December of 2014, the shortlist of 6 nations was published, after which FIBA management was to visit each country for what they call “on-site inspection.”
They were to evaluate the play-worthiness of each of the identified playing venues. The team was tasked to determine the readiness of each country by understanding the logistics capability of each nation. Transportation systems and lodging facilities are surely important points the evaluating team would have looked at.
On March 16, FIBA decides that the games will be held in Asia, China and the Philippines were the last two countries standing.
Initially, when the final decision was handed out, many believed that the clear reason for the loss was because the playing venues were inadequate.
They were presented with the Smart Araneta Coliseum, Mall of Asia Arena, Philippine Arena in Bulacan and possibly 3 other playing venues committed to be built before the games, one at Solaire Resort in Pasay, one in Cebu and another in Bacolod. (READ: It's 14-7 for China in FIBA Central Board votes)
But remember, the venues were already presented and inspected in January. It would be a logical conclusion that these courts were acceptable, with minor improvements, as we were shortlisted in March soon after. Transportation, security and the overall logistics capability to smoothly manage the games were suddenly of utmost importance. Relative to China, these are not our strong points.
Our traffic situation is in chaos and our public transportation system pales in comparison. Our security system is not outstanding either. Our airports have always been rated low. Media reports paint a rather scary picture of the country. An unfair one, perhaps, but a real perception to the FIBA voting committee. Surely these variables were taken into serious consideration by the evaluating team.
The strength of our pitch hinged on the Filipinos themselves. We promised to fill up every playing venue. We were to tweet, Instagram and post each and every FIBA World Cup moment. We promised that it will be an event like no other. Clearly the positioning highlighted the country’s advantage over the clamped down social media environment of China.
We banked on the fact that we were able to host the 2013 FIBA Asia tournament. The Philippines talked about hosting huge events such as the APEC Summit, the Pope’s visit and other sporting events in the past. We said that if we were able to do that, then we could do the World Cup.
China’s single-minded pitch
China boasts of hosting a whole list of international sporting events, the Olympic Games in 2008 being one of them. They have the playing venues, the transportation system, the proper logistics and have proven time and again that all will be safe and secure. A message that simply begged the question, “Have we ever failed you?”
Logic over magic
The Philippines’ love for basketball is unquestionable. No one can doubt our love for the sport. However, sending a team to compete in FIBA tournaments is different from hosting the World Cup in 2019.
The latter does not only require the love for the game. The task called for the same passion and dedication needed to properly build a nation.
This is what China offered. This is what China readily has.
Taking a step back so we can move forward
The “more than ever” promise banked on China’s experience of hosting huge sporting events. They have been given this privilege so many times. They ensure the proper and safe implementation of the games. Their capabilities are tangible and real as evidenced by their progressive cities and first world facilities.
The variables considered by the evaluating team are necessary to become a country that is prosperous, safe, secure and trusted. China has developed into that kind of nation.
“Puso,” though a powerful concept, needed to have something tangible to leverage on. For it to work it had to latch on to the fundamental prerequisites of a nation that is interesting and inviting.
FIBA management did not want to risk magical; they wanted a safe logical solution.
Alas, it did boil down to infrastructure, experience and trust.
Onward to the next one
This is clearly a promise of new beginnings. The experience opens up endless possibilities for the Philippines not only in basketball but in all the other sports. If we are to pick up anything from this it is to know that it is necessary to take care of ourselves first before we are able attract others.
Let us utilize the “Puso” spirit to get back on the saddle and focus on the immediate tasks at hand. If we are true to the desire to be “hosts” then we must fix our house. We have seen that if we agree on the same objective, and place national interest above our own, then we can be better…we can compete against the bigger more progressive countries.
If we want the next one, this is the time to start. – Rappler.com