|03 September 2013|
|Slovenian Prime Minister Alenka Bratusek speaking at the opening ceremony of EuroBasket 2013|
With Ljubljana's famous castle illuminated by fireworks, and expectant crowds gathered in the city's Kongresni Square, EuroBasket 2013 was officially launched on Tuesday evening to signal the start of a 19-day jamboree in the picturesque Balkan nation.
With representatives of all 24 participating countries, as well as leading figures in European basketball, media and officials from the four host cities of Koper, Jesenice, Celje and the Slovene capital itself, a lavish ceremony, and a concert, showcased the host nation which has spent the past three years preparing for the arrival of this tournament.
"It is going to be a party," promised the master of ceremonies. A wild one, one might expect, in a country whose fans have earned plaudits for their passion when they have travelled to past championships. Basketball matters was the message.
So much work has gone in to organising what will be the first-ever EuroBasket in Slovenia.
"I was very proud two-and-a-half years ago when Slovenia got awarded EuroBasket 2013," Slovenian Basketball Federation and organisation committee chairman Roman Volcic said.
"But I'm even more proud now after all the work done. I'm sure our country will stage a brilliant tournament. Let the best team win."
Most of the thousands in attendance at the opening ceremony will hope that it is one team in particular.
Slovenia's Prime Minister Alenka Bratusek will be one of those fans watching and cheering on the hosts.
"There will be great talent and technical ability on show, both in individual play and as collective teams," she said. Plus, she guaranteed, there will be a warm welcome to every visitor. "We want everyone to enjoy Slovenia and go home with a warm feeling from our country."
When the action begins on court on Wednesday, it will be down to competition and the chase to be the champions of 2013. Full houses are expected and a high calibre of basketball demanded. It will, promises FIBA Europe Secretary General Kamil Novak, be an unmissable spectacle.
"Hosting an event in a small country like Slovenia has its advantages - indeed fans can travel between cities and take in more than one game a day at more than one venue," he said.
"Given the central location of Slovenia, I am also confident the arenas will be packed for every game, with the small distance that many fans of the teams here have to travel. The chants, cheering and colours that they will bring to the arenas are after all, what make an event such as this a success."