Pages: Sharapova in Manila

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Monday, July 28, 2014


WHILE en route to Subic and Baguio last month and traveling at the maximum speed of 100-kph along the NLEX highway in Luzon, our eyes caught sight of the “UFO.” Jasmin and Jana sat as passengers as I was driving and, to our right, we saw the humongous structure. It was HUGE.

Compared to the Smart Araneta Coliseum or SM’s MOA Arena, this dome-shaped complex looked like a spaceship from the movie “Independence Day.” I asked Jasmin to Google it. Within seconds, the answer arrived: the “Philippine Arena,” built by the Iglesia ni Kristo to mark its 100th anniversary.

Wow. It is billed as a world-record of a monument (“world’s largest indoor arena”) that can house over 55,000 people. I saw photos of the INC Centennial celebration and the arena, which reportedly cost P9.4 billion, is mighty large. For sports, this is good. INC is open to leasing the entire stadium (as long as it’s not for sports like cock-fighting). This is excellent for Philippine sports.

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GILAS. The “Last Home Stand” event last week was disastrous. Imagine the embarrassment inside The Big Dome of having to explain to the thousands of ticket holders that, sorry, we’ll just showcase lay-ups and smiles from the visiting NBA players? The organizers, up to the last moments of the “game,” thought that they’d be able to convince the NBA to allow their players for a scrimmage. They reasoned that this was a fund-raising project for Yolanda. But the NBA would not budge. And the players themselves were scared that, if they play 5-on-5, they’d be penalized. It was a lose-lose situation for all. I don’t know the tens of millions of pesos that PLDT lost in the fiasco. Will MVP fire some of his officials for the blunder? Good that MVP knows “command responsibility” and quickly promised the boisterous public (especially in social media) that they’ll repay. The damage has been minimized.

All this will be forgotten when our Smart Gilas Pilipinas squad descends in Spain for the Fiba World Championship.

“Congressman” Romy Dy Pico, my companion from the Rotary Club of Cebu West, will be in Seville to watch our national team play. Thanks to his Wheelmasters Corp. being one of the nation’s top sellers of Goodyear tires, Romy was given an all-expense paid trip to see Team PHL play Croatia, Greece, Argentina, Puerto Rico and Senegal. Romy and his group arrive in Madrid on Aug. 28 and return on Sept. 5.

MARIA. It’s confirmed. Rumors circulated that the world’s most famous female athlete will arrive in Manila. But not until these words, “Yes! First time visiting Philippines!” were tweeted by Maria Sharapova herself last week that the rumors were confirmed true.

Mike Limpag, get ready to fly to Manila! It’s the Intl. Premier Tennis League (IPTL) and it’s happening from Nov. 28 to 30. Apart from Sharapova, this innovative team-tennis concept involving the cities of Manila, Singapore, Dubai and Mumbai will bring to our capital city the likes of Andy Murray and Jo-Wilfred Tsonga. The others on the list include Novak Djokovic, Serena Williams and Rafael Nadal -- though it’s no guarantee that all the big names will come.

Tickets will soon be available. Quoting a Phil. Star article, IPTL COO Eric Gottschalk said: “The tickets will go on sale through Smart Araneta Coliseum traditional ticket outlets [Ticketnet] no later than Aug. 15 with different seating options available ranging from 3-day passes, general admission and courtside seats including premium seating, valet parking and several food and beverage options.” For pricing, tickets will range from P300 to P700 for the most inexpensive to P15,000 for ringside seats.

GULLAS CUP. It’s official. Last week, I met Dodong Gullas at his UV office and the date of the 19th Gullas Tennis Cup is final: Aug. 21 to 24, at the indoor facilities of CitiGreen and Alta Vista. The Group 2 Philta-sanctioned event will be open to all junior netters aged 18 and under. Registration details will soon be announced. For now, practice those volleys and smashes.

(john@pages.ph)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on July 29, 2014.

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