Wednesday night, players, tournament sponsors such as Bodog’s Greg Fermont and other basketball dignitaries come together at the Dusit Thani Grand Ballroom in Makati to officially open the 27th FIBA Asia Championship.
The host for the evening was the lovely Valeen Montenegro who opened the gala with a speech explaining the motto of the games, Peace through basketball. She extolled the virtues of the Philippines as a host country, pointing to the Filipinos natural hospitality and their fervent passion for the game of basketball.
The tournament serves as a qualifier for the 2014 FIBA World championships in Spain. This is the first time in 40 years that the Philippines has hosted the Asia Championships. They were asked on short notice as the games were to be held in Beirut Lebanon but the Syrian Civil War and other on-going crisis in the Middle East were cited for the location change. All of the speakers on the night were grateful for the opportunity to show their region of the world what tremendous hosts they can be.
After Montenegro’s opening words, the ceremonies began with a parade of nations. One by one, a player from each team would walk their respective country’s flag to the stage. The loudest cheers for the favorites China, Iran and the host country the Philippines.
Manny Pangilinan, or MVP as he’s affectionately known come to the stage. Pangilinan is the President of the Basketball Federation of the Philippines and the Chairman of a litany of local corporations. Pangilinan spoke about the months of preparation and gave the athletes a warm welcome saying he hoped the Philippines would be their home away from home for the duration of the Tournament.
FIBA President Sheikh Saud Bin Ali Al-Thani of Qatar spoke about the strength of the FIBA Asia teams and expected it to be a great tournament, “I wish to see good games, good luck to everyone, thank you and welcome. We are Asia, we are the best.”
Gilas Pilipinas team captain Jimmy Alapag come to the stage to give the oath of sportsmanship on behalf of all the players competing in the games.
The ceremonies come to and end and the tournament officially began when the Commissioner of the Philippines Basketball Association Sonny Barrios come of the stage to declare the 27th FIBA Asia Championship officially open.
The players dined and were quickly shuttled off to their buses and back to their hotels for a good nights rest before an early slate of games Thursday morning.