One of Barcelona’s oldest districts could become a new hotbed of basketball talent thanks to the refurbished court that was inaugurated Thursday to coincide with the start of the 2011 Turkish Airlines Euroleague Final Four in nearby Palau Sant Jordi.
In the densely-populated and culturally-diverse Raval neighborhood, basketball aficionados of all ages will be able to play in optimum conditions on Aurora’s Court, located on the west side of the city’s famous boulevard, La Rambla. To christen the new installation, stars from each of the Final Four teams, Panathinaikos, Montepaschi Siena, Real Madrid and Maccabi Electra, were on hand to showcase their skills and provide a mini-clinic for the 57 kids that attended from five area schools eager to learn from the pros.
Euroleague Basketball President and CEO Jordi Bertomeu was on site to oversee the ceremony along with City of Barcelona Sports Councilor Pere Alcober and from the sponsors that made the event possible, Mondo Iberia Delegate Josep Baliu and from the Gran Via 2 commercial center, Director Jorge Fonseca and Marketing Director Luis Alcalá. Panathinaikos players Antonis Fotsis and Romain Sato, Siena’s Tomas Ress and Nikos Zisis, Madrid’s Sergi Vidal and D’Or Fischer and Maccabi’s Chuck Eidson and Derrick Sharp
represented the competing team. Beyond the basketball instruction offered by the players to the schoolchildren, they also took time to sign balls and pose for pictures after the ceremony.
Organized by Euroleague Basketball and the City Council of Barcelona, the refurbishment was made possible by the support of league sponsor Mondo, a global leader in sports installations, which donated the baskets, and Gran Via 2, a well-known local commercial center, which undertook the refurbishment of the court itself and played a central role in organizing Thursday’s celebratory event. This is the second such collaboration between Mondo and Euroleague’s Corporate Social Responsibility program, Euroleague for Life. The first, also held during the Final Four, was undertaken last year to benefit patients at the Hospital Salpetriere in the Parisian neighborhood of Austerlitz.
Through the example and cooperation of players, teams and leagues, Euroleague for Life seeks to encourage and motivate people to choose sport as a way of life.
"We are very happy that the Final Four starts here in this court and this school in the Raval. We are very happy to count with Gran Via 2 and Mondo’s support in collaboration with the Ciutat Vella district and we are very happy to be here with these players, who are the best in Europe and tomorrow will play one of the most important games of their lives. But they still wanted to be here and we thank them for it, because they show us how much fun it is to play basketball whenever they step on the court, and that is a great message for these kids, who will enjoy this court for years to come."
"Since 2008 we have been collaborating with the Euroleague. Last year we had a very similar experience in Paris and it’s an honor for us, not just being associated with the Final Four, but also with events that have a more social relevance and go beyond the pure spectacle of sport. I am convinced all these kids and Raval neighbors will enjoy this court for a long time. It is a space meant to integrate through the practice of sport, where people can reach happiness in their lives."
"We are starting off a weekend where Barcelona will be the basketball capital of Europe and we want to thank the Euroleague for choosing our city, as we will follow the games closely. We also are headstrong on sport helping integration in the city, as basketball helps us get to know each other better and have fun together. We took the opportunity, now with the Final Four here, to refurbish this court in Ciutat Vella thanks to Mondo and Gran Via 2, and now we have to keep the court alive by coming here and playing basketball, making our neighborhood better. We thank the players for coming as well, as we know they are focused on the games tomorrow, but they made an effort to be here and join this party by reaching out to the community."
TOMAS RESS, Montepaschi Siena:
"It is always nice to give something back to the community. These people live in these conditions and it’s always nice to give them new courts, new balls and hope for a better future. When I grew up I didn’t see my parents all that much because they were working a lot and I left home to play basketball, so I had to make some sacrifices to become what I am today."
D'OR FISCHER, Real Madrid:
"I am having a great time here on the court, enjoying this moment, which is all about the kids. What the Euroleague is doing with these kids is very good. I wish I had this opportunity when I was growing up for people to d that for me and it’s great to bring the game to them."
SERGI VIDAL, Real Madrid:
"This is the essence of basketball: playing on the street, having fun in the purest form, and if you can have good courts like these, all the better. I’m having a great time with the kids: we all were kids once and I loved to see professional players then, whenever I had the chance."
ROMAIN SATO, Panathinaikos:
"It’s great to be here in this new court. These kids need it and it’s a great opportunity for them to experience something different, enjoy the game of basketball and keep out of trouble. The court is very beautiful."
CHUCK EIDSON, Maccabi Electra:
"I really like the court, the way it’s built into the city and integrated. I’m from a country town so I don’t get to see this a lot. It’s very cool. Playing outdoors does bring back a lot of good memories, though, as this is where it all started."
NIKOS ZISIS, Montepaschi Siena:
"It’s great to come here and get back to the roots, in a way. We all played in asphalt courts, with chains for nets when we were younger and we playing just for fun. We are professionals now, with a big game tomorrow, but coming here and playing out with these kids gives us a chance to relax a little."