ON Friday, as I was on my way home from work, I was able to watch, through my cell phone, the announcement of which nation will be hosting the 2019 International Basketball Federation (Fiba) Basketball World Cup.
The choice was either the Republic of the Philippines or the People’s Republic of China. Both countries were well-prepared and well-represented by top government officials, diplomats, businessmen (in the case of the Philippines, led by sports philanthropist, Manuel V. Pangilinan) and media personalities.
Eight-division world boxing champion Manny Pacquiao from the Philippines and former National Basketball Association superstar and, arguably, China’s greatest basketball export, ex-Houston Rocket, Yao Ming were on hand to support their respective countries.
Each country was given 20 minutes to give its audio-visual presentations to convince the Fiba Central Board members. China exploited to the hilt, its advantage in infrastructure and experience in hosting events of even bigger magnitude having hosted the Olympic Games in 2008, the 2010 Asian Games and the 2014 Nanjing Youth Olympics. China will also host the 2022 Winter Olympics.
China will be hosting the biggest Basketball World Cup ever. Thirty two national teams will attempt to dethrone the United States as world champion. Games will be held across eight cities in China. According to the Chinese, they have, and rightly so, the infrastructure and the transportation to hold an event of this magnitude. All eight playing venues are world class, so they say.
According to various reports, China also boasted of holding the Fiba World Cup, which is held every four years, in eight keys cities, which are easily connected by several forms of modern transportation in the form of bullet trains and magnetic levitation locomotives.
According to the Aljazeera web site, Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen, Guangzhou, Suzhou, Foshan, Wuhan and Donguan will all host games. These eight provinces have existing state-of-the-art venues to hold the games.
The Philippines presentation’s aim was to tug at the heartstrings and appeal to the emotions of the Central Board members by showing how passionate Filipinos are about the sport of basketball. The presentation showed excerpts of the 2013 Fiba Asia Championship, where the Philippines finished runner up to Iran. Games would have been played at the Mall of Asia Arena, the Philippine Arena, Seaside Arena in Cebu City and the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
The strategy almost worked, as reported by the Brainshare Online web site: Horacio Muratore, the President of Fiba said, ‘This was a very difficult decision because we had two national federations who did excellent work. However, there can only be one host country for our event in 2019, and it will be China.’
Out of the 21 Central Board members, 14 voted for China, while seven voted for the Philippines. As host nation, China automatically qualifies for the Fiba Basketball World Cup. The Philippines will have to go through the qualifying process and earn the right to play in China in 2019.
This exercise just further emphasizes the business part of sport. China is too big a market to ignore. What used to be its biggest problem, its huge population, has become the biggest attraction for all investors and capitalists, including those deeply involved in sports marketing. There was really no way veteran sports marketers could turn their back on such a huge market, especially at a time when basketball wants to approximate the popularity and the true global character of soccer, the world’s most popular sport. And China was the perfect venue to deliver that statement and make those inroads.