The Turkish Airlines Final is off and running in Belgrade with the celebration of the 2022 Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Final Four Tip-Off Ceremony on Wednesday at Stark Arena, which opened with a welcome message from Euroleague Basketball CEO Jordi Bertomeu.
Final Four welcome from Jordi Bertomeu
Before we start, I would like to pay a tribute to former player, EuroLeague Ambassador and, above all, an extraordinary person Ademola Okulaja, who sadly passed away yesterday, definitely too soon. My condolences to his family and friends.
Please join me in a moment of silence in his memory.
Welcome to the 2022 Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Final Four. I remember that one year ago, I started these remarks by expressing how happy we were for the Final Four to be back. This year we are even more excited, because after such a long time, we will again have a Final Four with the presence of its most defining element, the fans.The fans are exactly the reason why we are here in Belgrade.
As everyone knows, the plan was originally to celebrate the event in Berlin, but until January, when the decision was taken to change the plan, we weren’t sure if we would be able to celebrate this moment with the fans. The fans are why we do this, why the players and coaches go onto the court, and we could not have yet another Final Four without them.
Today, exceptionally, I wish to thank two cities. First, the city of Berlin and Mercedes Benz Arena, for their understanding in such a difficult situation. And second, obviously, Belgrade and its mayor, who, amazingly, have been able to turn everything around despite such a challenging timeframe.
These have been an incredibly hard two years for everybody. But it has been a great joy this season to see our arenas progressively fill up as restrictions were lifted. The stands have again become full of the color and the energy that makes the EuroLeague what it is. Over these two years, despite everything, we have still felt that passion from the fans who continued to support and to cheer for their teams and players in different ways. In fact, we are extremely happy that during this difficult time, our fan base has continued to grow and that we continue to attract new people to feel devotion for what I believe is the most competitive basketball competition in the world.
These two years have proven that the EuroLeague has enormous resilience. The EuroLeague today is a solid and strong property that, with the support of its fans, continues to overcome challenges.
Difficult times continue today with the terrible, ongoing war in Ukraine. This brings, yet again, many challenges and uncertainties that surely will last for some time.
For the first time in 22 years, some of the teams that started the competition back in October were not able to finish it. We remain hopeful that peace will come back again soon. And despite all these challenges, in Belgrade this week, we aim to throw the biggest celebration in European basketball.
Our mission is to deliver an incredible fan experience, full of emotion, bringing people together around one passion, basketball. That is why it is so important that we celebrate with the fans who will come to Belgrade, and also with those who will follow the Final Four from home. The teams are committed to this and ready to offer this great spectacle.
I want to congratulate FC Barcelona, Olympiacos, Real Madrid and Anadolu Efes for having arrived this far, and thank them, their players and coaches – alongside those of all the other teams – for the thrilling season they have delivered so far. From the very first moment to the very last, every one of them has embodied the words "Every Game Matters", giving their all on every single play.
I also want to congratulate in advance those individuals who will now be recognized with their season awards, and also thank our legends and ambassadors. They have tirelessly helped us off the court, most especially with their commitment to our One Team program, which is 10 years old this season and helps us make a real impact in building a more inclusive and supportive society.
Last but not least, a heartfelt thank you to all our media partners and sponsors, with a special mention to Turkish Airlines. Thank you for standing with us even in the most difficult times.
Once again, welcome to Belgrade. A vibrant city, a basketball city, and the city that will crown the 2021-22 Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Champion.
Thank you and enjoy!