By Waylon Galvez
Pressured by the public outcry, sports officials removed one thorn in their bid to stage a successful SEA Games by succeeding to bring basketball matches to a bigger arena.
Initially scheduled at the smaller The Arena in San Juan, basketball games will now be played at the Mall of Asia (MOA) Arena in Pasay City.
This came after the Philippine Olympic Committee, the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas and the Philippine SEA Games Organizing Committee came to terms in bringing the event to a luxurious arena.
“The POC, SBP and PHISGOC join hands to bring basketball back to a bigger venue,” said SBP chief Al Panlilio in a statement Wednesday after he met with POC president Ricky Vargas and PHISGOC Chief Operating Officer (COO) Tats Suzara over the weekend in Hong Kong.
Panlilio said that Suzara initiated the meeting after complains snowballed since The Arena can only accommodate 5,000 fans.
The MOA Arena, on the other hand, can accommodate of 20,000 spectators.
Because of that, PHISGOC received negative feedback particularly from basketball fans.
The MOA Arena has staged big international basketball tournaments, including the 2013 FIBA Asia Championship, the 2016 FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournaments, and several games of the 2019 FIBA World Cup qualifying windows.
“We heard the voices of our people. We were also made aware that some sectors have started to put the blame on certain agencies without really understanding the complexities of the situation,” said Panlilio.
“The best way to solve an issue is to discuss peacefully and look for ways to find an acceptable solution,” he added.
Knowing how close basketball is to the Filipinos, Panlilio said it is just proper that the event be held in one of the country’s premier basketball venues.
“Holding an event of this magnitude is a shared responsibility among different sports leaders and even our people. This event is a showcase of our capacity to hold massive regional sporting events and can play as a window for other countries to look at our country with a more positive outlook,” said Panlilio.