MANILA, December 12, 2017 - There was not a happier man in Switzerland on Saturday than Philippines coach Chot Reyes following the announcement that the joint bid of his country, along with Japan and Indonesia, to host the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023 had been successful.
"We're very, very happy," Reyes said. "We will have the world's best basketball players, some of the world's best athletes coming to Manila and we're very excited. We can't be any prouder."
It was important for the Philippines to host the FIBA Asia Cup four years ago and also one of the three FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournaments (OQTs) last year. Their fans had a chance to see some of the best players in the world.
Yet, to welcome the FIBA Basketball World Cup to its shores is a far greater honor, and challenge. The sport is number one in the country and this is only going to make it even more popular.
"It's like the Pope coming to Manila (Reyes laughs)," he said. "When the Pope came down a couple of years back, we had about 6 million people lining out on the streets under the heat of the sun and under heavy rain.
It's also the first time that a World Cup will be multi-hosted, something that has been a huge success at the last couple of FIBA EuroBaskets, FIBA AmeriCup 2017 and FIBA AfroBasket 2017.
It speaks to the evolution of sport of basketball, three different countries coming together with a combined population of 500 million people, it's going to be really special. It's going to be really nice to be a part of something as historic as this on our end.
"Obviously it was a very good experience for us because we managed to win those first two games. It was very special that we were able to pull off two difficult victories so it was a good start, but it's still a long ways off, just step one," Reyes said.
Gilas play at Australia in Melbourne on February 22 before returning home to host Japan three days later. The Filipinos will then play at Chinese Taipei on June 29 before hosting Australia on July 2.
"On our end, we know that we are going to be facing tougher opposition, we'll have Australia coming up and other teams, but as long as we have our fans coming in, its a big boost for us," Reyes said.