EuroBasket 2011 invites fans to Lithuania

  • 2010-10-27
  • By Rokas M. Tracevskis

VILNIUS - On October 22, during a meeting at the Lithuanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Vilnius, the European Men’s Basketball Championship, also known as EuroBasket, which will take place in Lithuania in 2011, was presented to the foreign diplomatic corps. Arvydas Sabonis, former world-famous basketball player of the Euroleague and NBA, was introduced to the diplomats as the ambassador of EuroBasket 2011.

The European basketball championship will be held in Lithuania in September 2011. Its matches will be played in the arenas of Vilnius, Kaunas, Klaipeda, Panevezys, Siauliai, and Alytus. This will be the second time Lithuania has hosted EuroBasket. The first time was in 1939, when Lithuania became the European champion for a second time. Now Lithuania, three-time European champions, expect success in 2011 after the good show this year in the world basketball championships in Turkey, where the Lithuanian national team got bronze medals.

EuroBasket 2011 will be shown on TV in 150 countries. Some 113,000 tickets will be for sale. Three-quarters of them will be sold to Lithuanian fans. Some 30,000-40,000 foreign fans are expected to arrive in Lithuania to watch EuroBasket 2011. An average foreign fan will spend 100 euros per day, the organizers expect. The Lithuanian government will give 21 million litas (6 million euros) for the championship organization and nine million litas for insuring security for the championship. Some 1,500 volunteers will help during Eurobasket 2011. In September, the Lithuanian Basketball Federation decided to invite 24 teams, not the usual 16, to EuroBasket because Lithuania realized that Lithuania’s neighboring countries failed to make it to EuroBasket 2011 via qualifying competitions. EuroBasket without fans from neighboring countries would be bad for business. FIBA Europe agreed with Lithuanian arguments and now another Baltic team, Latvia, as well as Poland, Ukraine and Georgia will also be present at EuroBasket 2011. Estonia is not in, because it is not among the top 24 teams of Europe. The Lithuanian Foreign Ministry promises to work quickly issuing visas for fans from non-EU countries.

“EuroBasket is advertising our country. It is a chance to attract tourists without a big advertising campaign,” Sabonis said.
Nar Zanolin, secretary general of FIBA Europe, is inspecting the future arenas of EuroBasket 2011 now. On October 22, he met with Lithuanian Prime Minister Andrius Kubilius to discuss preparations for EuroBasket 2011. After the meeting, Zanolin said that EuroBasket 2011 will be the best EuroBasket ever held. “It will set a new standard for EuroBaskets. I could not guarantee to the prime minister that Lithuania will become a champion, but I hope so,” Zanolin said.

Anyway, it will definitely be better than the previous EuroBasket which was held in Poland in 2009 and which left rather sad memories about its organization. Then Lithuania played its group stage matches in Wroclaw in an arena built by a German Kaiser in 1913. Its scary Prussian-style architecture was more suitable for shooting some horror movie and numerous Lithuanian fans even needed to watch out for doves which found their way into the arena.

All arenas of EuroBasket 2011 will be ultramodern and probably the best in Europe. The final match will be held in the basketball arena in Kaunas with a capacity of 14,500 which will be constructed by the summer of 2011. Lithuania was among the top 4 teams during the last five Olympics (only the USA showed a better result than Lithuania in the last five Olympics combined) and therefore, Lithuania takes its basketball very seriously.