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LOC targets crowd-record for FIBA World Cup opener at the Philippine Arena

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Photo: Preparations for the FIBA World Cup hosting is almost 100 percent complete as reported by the Local Organizers (from left) Joint Management Committee head John Lucas, Chief Implementer Ramon ‘Tatz’ Suzara, PSC Chairman Richard Bachmann and Deputy Event Director Erika Dy during the media briefing.

THE Local Organizers of the FIBA World Cup 2023 are looking at history when the Gilas Pilipinas played the Dominican Republic in the main game of the lone double-header in the opening of the country’s hosting of the biggest sporting event on August 25 at the Philippine Arena in Bulacan.

The 55,000 sitting capacity Arena located at the 140-hectare tourism zone Ciudad de Victoria spread over Sta. Maria and Bocaue are poised to eclipse the FIBA World Cup crowd record of 32,616 set in 1994 between the game of USA Dream Team 2 and Russia at the Skydome in Toronto, Canada.

Italy and Angola will open hostilities at 4 pm, while the Gilas Pilipinas-Dominican match is set at 8:00 pm.

“Online tickets sale for the opening double game are already sold-out. We’re now selling the one-game ticket and we expected na sold-out din ito. With this scenario kaya nating ma-break yung crowd record in 1994 sa Toronto,” said FIBA WC Joint Management Committee Head John Lucas during the media briefing after the second Inter-Agency Meeting on Wednesday at the PSC Conference Room inside the Rizal Memorial Sports Complex (RMSC) in Malate, Manila.

Lucas also revealed that through Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) Chairman Richard Bachmann an invitation was sent to President Ferdinand ‘BongBong’ Marcos, Jr. to lead guests for the ceremonial toss.

“It’s another milestone in Philippine basketball when the sitting President will toss the ball in the opening game. When the country first hosted the World Cup in 1978 it was then the late President Marcos. Sr. who officially opened the game,” added Lucas.

Bachman confirmed that an invitation and a request to declare August 25 a holiday was already sent to Malacanang, although no official word yet from the Office of the President, he said the Chief Executive is fully supporting the event.

“Remember, the Inter-Agency Task Force was formed on the instruction of President Marcos. And for the record, the government extended 1 billion as financial assistance for the hosting,” claimed Bachmann.  

Aside from this, government facilities Ninoy Aquino Stadium and the famed Rizal Memorial Coliseum are ready for use as practice venues.

Chief Implementer and Master Planner for the FIBA World Cup 2023 Ramon “Tats” Suzara reported that all areas for the preparations are covered including traffic management from the delegations’ hotels to the arena and practice facilities.

“I would say after the meeting this morning, we are already 98 percent ready, especially in all the venues and billeting hotels,” said Suzara.

“All the traffic management plans in the competition venues in the Philippine Arena, Mall of Asia Arena, and Smart Araneta Coliseum are in place, all hotels are in place including the World Congress in Sofitel. There are only minor issues left.”

“Normally, in any sporting event like the World Cup, the two percent are the finishing touches… when you move in, that’s where you set up the tables, the chairs, the branding,” added Suzara.

For her part, LOC Deputy Event Director Erika Dy, said they already devised new plans to make the target 45 minutes travel time from the hotel to the Philippine Arena possible.

“There’s been a lot of new plans on deck. I think we have decided on one plan that we want to simulate again probably during the next concert in the Philippine Arena so we can test it,” said Dy who claimed that the LOC is closely working and coordinating with teams from the PNP, MMDA, and NLEX officers.

 “The time that we get the players there from there to the hotel is one thing and another important thing is the convenience of the fans to get in and outside the Philippine Arena,” she added.

A total of 400 buses are allotted for free rides for ticket holders going to the Bulacan venue.

Over at the Mall of Asia on the same day, Group D teams Mexico and Montenegro start their preliminary match at  4:45 pm, followed by the Egypt-Lithuania match at 8:30 pm.

Manila, with Okinawa and Jakarta, will host the group stage from August 25 to September 3, before all action shifts to Mall of Asia Arena for the final phase starting September 5.

Gilas Pilipinas’ other Group A games against Italy and Angolo will be played in Araneta Coliseum and Group B action for Serbia, China, Puerto Rico, and South Sudan.

The USA minus its biggest stars is in Group C along with New Zealand, Greece, and Jordan. All games are set at MOA Arena.

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