The Basketball World Cup made history on its first day as a record-breaking crowd of 38,115 filled the Philippine Arena. This incredible turnout easily set a new record for the largest audience to ever witness a game in World Cup history. The Philippines, known for its passionate love for basketball, successfully achieved its goal of setting a new attendance record. Among the spectators were distinguished guests such as Philippines President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and Basketball Hall of Famer Dirk Nowitzki, who serves as one of FIBA’s ambassadors for the World Cup.
Unfortunately for the home fans, the Dominican Republic team played the role of the spoiler, defeating the Philippines with a score of 87-81 in the Group A matchup. Karl-Anthony Towns was the leading scorer for the Dominican Republic, contributing 26 points to secure the victory. On the Philippine side, Jordan Clarkson scored an impressive 28 points before fouling out in the final moments of the game. Despite the loss, Philippines forward A.J. Edu reflected on the historic event with gratitude, stating, “This is something I’m never going to forget, right here. I mean, this was such a blessing to experience. I couldn’t hear anything every time we scored.”
The previous attendance record was set on August 14, 1994, during the FIBA world championship. The United States faced Russia in the gold-medal game, with 32,616 spectators witnessing the dominant performance by Team USA. However, this record was shattered at the Philippine Arena, signifying the significant growth and popularity of basketball around the world. Richard Carrion, the tournament chairman, expressed his excitement, stating, “We all knew the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023 was going to be special, and within the first day, we already have evidence of this, having witnessed this historic moment.”
The fans arrived early, some even several hours before the game, demonstrating their passion and dedication to the sport. Prior to the Philippines-Dominican Republic matchup, there was an opening game between Italy and Angola, which attracted a crowd of 21,214 fans. As the game progressed, the seats filled up, and the atmosphere became electrifying. A pregame concert and an on-court dance performance further added to the spectacle, intensifying the excitement within the arena. The cheers and support from the crowd were deafening, creating an unforgettable experience for all those present.
Originally, the Philippine Arena was scheduled to host the final phase of the World Cup, including the medal games. However, FIBA made a change of plans earlier in the year due to concerns about traffic and transport. The venue, with a capacity of up to 55,000 fans for some events, is located approximately an hour’s drive away from most of the other Manila venues being used for the tournament. Despite this change, the record-breaking crowd at the Philippine Arena marked a significant moment for the Philippines and the Basketball World Cup.
A Unique Record
It is highly unlikely that the attendance record set at the Philippine Arena will be broken during this World Cup. The games held on the first day were the only ones taking place at this venue throughout the tournament. The other venues in Manila, Japan, and Indonesia, which will be hosting games, are comparatively smaller in size. Thus, the historic crowd at the Philippine Arena showcased a unique and extraordinary moment in the world of basketball.
The Basketball World Cup commenced with a historic event as the Philippine Arena witnessed a record-breaking crowd. Despite the loss faced by the Philippine team, the significance of this moment cannot be understated. It represents the tremendous growth and passion for basketball worldwide, marking a new era for the sport. The impact of this historic occasion will inspire future generations and pave the way for even greater achievements in basketball.