MANILA, Philippines -- Preparations for FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023 took a big step forward as FIBA and the Local Organizing Committee (LOC) of the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) engaged in a week-long event packed with ocular inspections and meetings.
After settling for online meetings due to the constraints brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, the two groups finally got to meet face to face, which led to renewed vigor and excitement in completing the preparations for the quadrennial event.
The group visited the Mall of Asia Arena, the Philippine Arena, and the Araneta Coliseum to assess the venues and determine the necessary adjustments to give delegates and fans the best possible experience.
"It's all about sharing all the things we've learned both from the LOC and FIBA to make sure we're all on the same page to deliver the best World Cup that we can," said David Crocker, FIBA World Cup 2023 executive director.
"The wrap-up meeting was a good exchange. We saw many positive opportunities in the Philippines and the venues all presented well and we could feel real excitement from the three venues and we've got this great base for us to have the best-ever World Cup."
Crocker was impressed with the venues that they visited, as all three locations pulled out all stops to showcase what they can bring to the table.
"There's fantastic history at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum. It plays such an important role in sports here in the Philippines and in the FIBA World Cup as well as it has already hosted qualifying games," he said. "We're going to show it in a different light and dress it up in a contemporary way so people come in and think that it's really a beautiful arena."
The historic Big Dome recently hosted the FIBA World Cup - Asian Qualifiers Group matches with the Philippines, New Zealand, and India.
"The Mall of Asia Arena is a fantastic modern arena where we expect the fans to have a great experience from the time they walk in the door," Crocker stated about the venue that was home to the 2013 FIBA Asia Championship and the 2016 FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament.
"The amazing Philippine Arena has 55,000 seats and we just want that place filled with excited basketball fans so the world can really experience this crazy basketball nation of the Philippines," he added.
Aside from the ocular inspection of the venues, FIBA officials also aligned with the LOC about other important matters, such as the hotels that could host the thousands of delegates expected to fly in.
The week-long event was concluded with a debriefing held at the Marriott Hotel before the FIBA officials wrapped up their short visit to the Philippines.
"FIBA sent in officials from different departments such as marketing, operations, commercial, legal, and broadcast and then we mirrored each department with our own people in the LOC. The inspection was all about gauging our readiness to host the World Cup," said SBP executive director and FIBA World Cup 2023 event director Sonny Barrios.
"The preparations are not yet perfect but we picked up a lot of learnings and the FIBA officials saw a lot of positives from what we prepared. I'm very upbeat. We still have a lot of work to do to guarantee the best end result possible," he added.
Dickie Bachmann, head of the operations group of the LOC who accompanied the FIBA team all throughout their inspections, said: "The LOC has been working hard to ensure that not only are we compliant to FIBA tournament standards, but also to bring world-class basketball to Filipino and global basketball fans."
LOC head of venues, Gee Abanilla, echoed Bachmann's sentiments and added: "[The FIBA visit] will definitely help Philippine basketball hosting and marketing, so we just have to open our minds and absorb everything they have to offer. After all the planning comes the harder part – the implementation."
The FIBA team that made the trip to Manila will produce an official report, complete with all their recommendations for all the venues. This will be followed by the LOC implementing the necessary adjustments.
"We want to make sure all the delegates and fans have a premium experience when it comes to the accommodations and the transport," Crocker said in closing.
"We'll have representatives from over 200 countries for the FIBA World Congress and fans flying from all over the world to support their respective teams and we want to show them the best experience to showcase the hospitality of the Philippines."