(STAR) By Joaquin Henson - The Philippines is preparing a P30 Million war chest in a bid to host the six-nation FIBA Diamond Ball Championships two weeks before the Beijing Olympics next year.

SBP executive director Patrick Gregorio said yesterday he will discuss the bid with FIBA secretary-general Patrick Baumann during the Asian Indoor Games in Macau this week. FIBA technical group head Lubomir Kotleba earlier gave the go-signal for the Philippines to submit a firm offer to Baumann.

Gregorio said the Diamond Ball Championships will gather the five FIBA zone champions, except the US, to play in a tournament with the host team. Hong Kong and Macau are also bidding for the hosting rights.

“It’s a stand-alone tournament,” explained Gregorio. “FIBA is making it possible for the zonal Olympic qualifiers to play tune-up games in a country close to China. We’re taking the opportunity to reintroduce the Philippines to the FIBA family.”

The bid won’t come cheap. FIBA is asking for a rights fee of $100,000. And the five visiting teams will be given $50,000 each to cover airline tickets and other expenses. The host will also pay for hotel accommodations, food and inland transportation.

The five visiting teams are African champion Angola, Oceania champion Australia, European champion Russia, Asian champion Iran and defending Olympic champion Argentina replacing the US.

“We’re excited,” said Gregorio. “If we win the bid, it means we’ll have to regroup the Philippine team. Can you imagine the interest in the Philippines playing Iran? With the assurance of Solar and other groups for support, I think we’ll be able to raise the P30 Million budget. Mr. MVP (SBP president Manny Pangilinan) is definitely backing up the project.”

Gregorio is leaving for Macau tomorrow not only to confer with Baumann but also to accompany the Philippine Nike squad participating in the 3-on-3 demonstration sport at the Asian Indoor Games. He will be back on Monday.

The 3-on-3 event will be played on Saturday. Competing are Hong Kong, Macau, China, India, Chinese-Taipei, Iran, Malaysia and the Philippines.

Luigi Trillo is coaching the Philippines whose players are 6-4 Nico Salva of San Beda, 6-2 Ryan Buenafe of San Sebastian, 5-10 Clark Bautista of Benedictine International School and 6-5 Arvie Bringas of San Sebastian. The age limit for players is 18 and for coaches, 35.

Gregorio said FIBA is experimenting on the 3-on-3 format as a possible event for the first Youth Olympics in 2010.

The full 3-on-3 schedule will roll out on Saturday. The Philippines plays Malaysia at 9:30 a.m., Chinese-Taipei at 10:30 a.m. and Iran at 1:30 p.m. in the eliminations. If the Philippines makes it to the crossover semis, the first knockout game will be played at 3 p.m. with the finals at 4:30 p.m.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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