By Ivan Stewart Saldajeno
MANILA – President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. is expected to make a special appearance during the opening night of the FIBA World Cup Philippine leg.
FIBA World Cup joint management committee head John Lucas on Wednesday revealed that an invitation has been given to the Chief Executive to be in the tournament opener on Aug. 25 at the Philippine Arena in Bocaue, Bulacan.
“He accepted actually the invitation, so we can say that he will be the one to handle the ceremonial ball toss in the Gilas-Dominican Republic game,” he said during a press conference following the FIBA World Cup Inter-Agency Task Force meeting at the Rizal Memorial Coliseum in Manila.
Once he makes an appearance, it would be the second time Marcos is attending a Gilas game since he won the presidential elections in 2022.
Marcos drew a loud round of applause and cheers at the SM Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay when he watched Gilas’ World Cup Qualifiers fourth window game against Saudi Arabia in August 2022.
His appearance during the opening night of the FIBA World Cup Philippine leg next month could also be a full circle moment for his family as his father, Ferdinand Sr., graced the opening of the last FIBA World Cup hosted by the Philippines in 1978 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum in Quezon City.
Hopes are high that the Gilas-Dominican Republic game would draw the largest crowd for the FIBA World Cup game as it will be held inside the Philippine Arena, the world’s largest indoor arena that could fill up to 55,000 people.
As a potential additional boost to make it happen, Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) chairman Dickie Bachmann bared that a request has been raised to declare Aug. 25 a special holiday.
“The PSC is writing a letter to Malacanang to declare Aug. 25 a holiday so there could be less traffic, so hopefully [Marcos] will approve that,” Bachmann said.
Lucas added, “We want to break the record. That’s why we’re really rallying everyone to support Gilas on Aug. 25.” (PNA)