European basketball is enjoying a prominent position in the 2004 Athens Olympics. Saulius Stombergas (Lithuania) and Dejan Bodiroga (Serbia & Montenegro) were both honoured with the responsibility of carrying their team flags at the opening ceremony.
In addition, Greek legend Nikos Galis was one of the 6 athletes to carry the flame in the Olympic stadium.
On the court, Europe has a chance to play a decisive role in the medal balance as 9 of the 24 teams competing in the men’s and women’s basketball tournament are from Europe.
History is also on Europe’s side. In the men’s basketball tournament, a European team has failed to win a medal on only one occasion - the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. Since 1976, European teams have won 15 of a possible 21 medals and never less than 2 medals at one event.
|FIBA Europe President George Vassilakopoulos|
"The Olympics encapsulate the sporting ideal," he says.
"They are not just about the athletes, but all of those who work so hard for the few to succeed. For example, without the thousands of volunteers here in Athens, there could be no Olympics.
"In our sport, we have to acknowledge the support, commitment and hard work of our national federations. It is their tireless, behind the scenes work, that creates the environment that allows their players to succeed. And I think the fact that we have a total of 108 European basketball players in Athens is a sign of that success."
For FIBA Europe, the Olympics is part of a summer of competition which has seen over 3,000 players suit up for their national teams. There have been U16, U18 and U20 European Championships for Men and Women, and in September, the senior national teams will play qualification games for the 2005 European Championships.
"Being here at the Olympics gives us the chance to see the game’s top players,” adds FIBA Europe Executive Director Nar Zanolin.
"I have been lucky enough to have seen many of our youth tournaments this summer and the standard of play has been truly astounding. Once again, it is a testament to our national federations and their ability to continually produce great basketball players.
|Executive Director Nar Zanolin|
Names such as Sergio Rodriguez of Spain, Olexandra Gorbunova of Ukraine and Nemanja Aleksandrov of Serbia & Montenegro, to name but a few, are ones to look out for and I’m sure that many of the players we have seen this summer will go on to make an impact for their countries at the Olympic Games and many other international basketball tournaments."