Put yourself in the bubble in Clark and you will burst out giddy-head and elated.
Brilliant Gilas! Brilliant SBP! Brilliant Clark!
Apart from clinching the top position in its group in the FIBA Asian Qualifiers, Gilas now moves ahead not only into the Asian Cup but also having a go at qualifying for the Tokyo Olympics that starts next month.
Our magnificent boys fly off to Belgrade (June 29 to July 4) where they shall take on Serbia and the Dominican Republic. The top two teams here qualify for the Tokyo Games which starts on July 23. Onward future Olympians!
As I write this column, most of the six visiting teams would have left the bubble in Clark, not without first acknowledging the excellent organization of the 5-day Asian qualifiers. The bubble set up was so ideal that the two qualifiers, China and the Philippines, have decided to extend their stay and treat it as an intensive training ground for their upcoming tournaments. In the midst of this, they will play two tune up friendlies against each other within five days.
During the Asian Cup Qualifiers, over 200 players and 25 FIBA officials made up the foreign arrival lists at The Quest Hotel in Clark. Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) executive staff, national delegates and medical teams gingerly filled up the remainder of the hotel's 300 plus rooms. With over 300 guests in the hotel on full board over a 5-day period, sports tourism is indeed well and alive in Clark.
In spite of the ban on spectators, still other hotels in the Freeport also benefitted from the tournament. Hotel Lohas accommodated the Smart/PLDT party, TV5 crew and other ancillary staff. The bubble strictly requires all hotel staff, AUF personnel and drivers to be fully locked in too so they too had to be RT PCR tested and swab tested daily. If anyone leaves the bubble, he or she is not allowed in again.
This FIBA Asia Cup qualifier is by no means a Steven Spielberg production, but the cast of over 700 from drivers, janitors, waiters to FIBA officials and our Asian hoop stars, proved that sports development can be attained inspite of the pandemic. And sports events with local and foreign participants can be held with meticulously strict health protocols and willing partners. It only takes two to bubble.
In Europe, 12 cities are currently hosting Euro 2020 with crowds from 12,000 to 60,000 allowed in different sized stadiums around the continent. Twelve bubbles created with each nation imposing their own health protocols, following World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines. The finals will be played at Wembley London on July 12th.
This year's mega bubble is, of course, the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. No less than 12,000 athletes from over 200 countries will compete to be the world's best - COVID or no COVID. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the Japanese host organization have stated that they have prepared to the best of their ability for the Games to go on after a year's torturous delay, with tens of million of dollars already lost in ticket sales, sponsorships, merchandizing, hotel room sales, airline tickets and tours, amongst many others.
The Olympiad begins on July 23 and athletes have already arrived in Tokyo for acclimatization. Foreign spectators are banned from attending the Olympics to minimize the fear of spreading the virus.
Athletes are not allowed to leave the Games Village located at the Tokyo Bayside except to compete at the games venues. No big inter-cultural exchange deals. Considering what has so tragically happened, a Games as so tailored as what will be happening in Tokyo, is certainly better than no Games at all.
Our athletes, over a dozen now, with a few more to be added on hopefully in the coming weeks, will give full testament when they return. They will all have fulfilled a dream so many others could dream on in good or bad times.
As travel restrictions are easing up (although we have yet to see much), sports across the country should be encouraged to form the bubbles for trouble free events. It only needs a sports association, local or national, and the local government unit to work together during this pandemic period.
Good for sports; good for tourism. Cagayan, you are next.
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