Picking Up Where They Left Off…

Rising to the peak of European basketball in last year’s matches in Istanbul, Olympiacos Piraeus relinquished its throne to no one this year in London either.

The excitement generated at last year’s London summer Olympics continued this year at the Turkish Airlines Final Four. The tournament, May 10 to 12, boosted interest in the sport several-fold in the UK, which was relatively lukewarm to basketball up to now. Turkish Airlines’ contribution to that interest is of course enormous. And it has indicated it is going to buttress that support even more with the Basketball Capitals project launched at the Final Four.

The excitement of the Final Four, which pitted CSKA Moscow, FC Barcelona, Real Madrid and Olympiacos Piraeus against each other, was already mounting in anticipation of the tournament at the FanZone created on Trafalgar Square, where street basketball matches, a chance to have photos taken with the cup, fan shops and a slew of stands created a basketball festival atmosphere.

THE FIRST MATCHES
The first match, played on Friday, was between Olympiacos Piraeus and CSKA Moscow. Contrary to expectations, it ended 69-52 in Olympiacos’s favor. With impressive play by Sergio Llull, Real Madrid won the day’s other match and advanced to the final.

AND THE DAY OF THE FINAL
The match to determine third place was played in London on Sunday before the final. CSKA Moscow beat Barcelona in the confrontation. Now it was time to determine European basketball’s top team. Coming on strong against Olympiacos Piraeus, Real Madrid finished the first quarter ahead by 27-10. Even though Olympiacos toughened its defense in the second quarter with fan support, Real Madrid took the first half 41-37.

But Olympiacos had the wind at its back in the second half and the Piraeus squad tied the third quarter at 61-61. Breaking Real Madrid’s stride in the fourth quarter, Olympiacos finally cranked the difference up to 12 points in a series of steals. The final moments changed nothing, and Olympiacos Piraeus went on to a second championship in London after its earlier one in Istanbul.

Basketball came to the street with Turkish Airlines
A basketball festival atmosphere reigned at the 3-day-long Turkish Airlines FanZone on London’s Trafalgar Square, one of the busiest places in the city. Basketball matches were played on the specially decked out square, where the Turkish Airlines stand was a focus of keen interest. People queued up in long lines as promotional offers were distributed and Turkish sweets were handed out by our flying chefs.

The One Team corporate social responsibility project, an initiative we sponsor with contributions by Special Olympics Athletes, Euroleague Legends and UEFA Legends, was promoted in the FanZone on the morning of the opening day. Famous football and basketball players old and new, including Christian Karembeau, Robert Pires, Ramunas Siskauskas, Tragan Langdon and Ricky Rubio, played a demonstration match with the One Team project kids. Over the next two days, Turkish Airlines organized wheelchair basketball matches as well as contests of skill and slam dunk contests on the central court.

As part of the One Team initiative, disadvantaged children also came together with Final Four team players on the Tower Bridge to chat and collect signatures.

A hundred and ten members of the press from different countries, 25 of them from the British press, attended a press conference held at London’s City Hall on the opening day. And a total of 545 accredited members of the press, 53 of them from Britain, covered the Final Four.

A Gala Evening organized by Turkish Airlines took place at the Natural History Museum with prominent members of the press and VIP guests and businessmen in attendance. The Basketball Capitals project, an ESPN-Turkish Airlines partnership, was launched at the gala. Documentary films for the four biggest basketball cities in Europe - Berlin, Athens, Madrid and Istanbul - were shot for the project, which will premiere on television networks around the world in the days ahead. 

INFO

1                                                                                Real Madrid   İspanya
Spain                                                                         8/14
2                                                                                CSKA Moscow           Rusya
Russia                                                                       6/12
3                                                                                Panathinaikos           Yunanistan
Greece                                                                      6/7
4                                                                                Maccabi Tel Aviv      İsrail
Israel                                                                         5/14
5                                                                                Pallacanestro Varese           İtalya
Italy                                                                           5/10
6                                                                                Olimpia Milan            İtalya
Italy                                                                           3/5
7                                                                                ASK Riga        Litvanya
Latvia                                                                        3/4
8                                                                                Split    Hırvatistan
Croatia                                                                      3/4
9                                                                                FC Barcelona İspanya
Spain                                                                         2/6
10                                                                              Virtus Bologna          İtalya
Italy                                                                           2/5

ABOUT VASSILIS SPANOULIS
Most Valuable Player (MVP) of the last two tournaments, he was born in Larissa on August 7, 1982. The 1.93 meter, 95 kg Spanoulis plays in the point guard and shooting guard positions. Spanoulis, who played previously for Panathinaikos BC, transferred to Olympiacos Piraeus in 2010. He also did a brief stint in the NBA during the 2006-2007 season.