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Athens Olympic Stadium, a basketball temple April 30, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Basketball.

The 2007 Final Four will take place at OAKA, where Panathinaikos has played since moving from Glyfada Stadium in 1995. That was the year that the Indoor Hall of the Olympic Sports Complex was opened, and since then it has hosted all the major basketball events in the world. With the addition of the upcoming Euroleague Final Four, OAKA will have the privilege of being the only court responsible for hosting a complete cycle of the world’s most prestigous basketball events.

The Olympic Indoor Hall of Athens is considered to be one of the most renowned basketball temples worldwide. A few weeks after its completion, in June 1995, the European Championships for men was the very first event to be held there, with the national team of Yugoslavia returning from a three-year ban and winning the gold in a thrilling final against Lithuania. Croatia took the bronze medal and Greece came fourth. Twenty days later, OAKA hosted the Word Championships for junior men, where Greece beat Australia in the final game and captured the gold medal, while Spain ranked third and Croatia fourth. Among the junior world players that summer, Dimitris Papanikolaou from Panathinaikos, Luis Scola from Tau, Pepe Sanchez and Carlos Jimenez from Unicaja, and Trajan Langdon from CSKA Moscow are now returning, 12 years later, to play the Euroleague Final Four in the same arena, OAKA.

In summer 1998, OAKA again took the spotlight of international attention thanks to the Men’s World Championships. With the current coach of Panathinaikos, Zelimir Obradovic, on the bench, Yugoslavia beat Russia in another thrilling final, decided on a block shot by Zeliko Rebraca against Mihail Mihailov, and thus conquered the title. The U.S. team, without NBA players due to a lockout, took the bronze medal, while Greece ranked fourth.

In August 2004 OAKA experienced its most brilliant moments, with the final round of the Olympic Men’s Basketball Tournament. This time the NBA was here, but the U.S. team failed to obtain what they had missed six years previously. Argentina came up big, beating Italy in the final to win the gold medal, the country’s biggest achievement in any Olympic team sport. The U.S. team captured the bronze medal, Lithuania ranked fourth and Greece took the fifth place. Two of Argentina’s gold medalists from 2004 – Scola and Sanchez – return now to try to prove that OAKA brings them good luck. The ultimate good luck can only come through for one of them, but both have other precedents in OAKA. Sanchez won the 2002 Euroleague title with Panathinaikos, while Scola and Tau last year beat Panathinaikos in a do-or-die game at OAKA to reach the Final Four in Prague.

After the 1995 European Championships for men, the World Championships for junior men, the 1998 World Championships for men and the 2004 Olympic Basketball Tournament, now the Euroleague Final Four is another link to be added in this bright chain. It marks the third time that Greece is hosting a Final Four for third time. In 1993, at the Peace and Friendship Stadium in Athens, Limoges beat Benetton Treviso in a controversial final game sealed by the outstanding defense of the French team. Current Tau Ceramica boss Bozidar Maljkovic led Limoges to its upset victory. PAOK came third and Real Madrid ranked fourth. Seven years later it was Thessaloniki’s turn to host a Final Four. PAOK’s Sports Arena in Pylaia welcomed the best four teams of the competition, with Panathinaikos edging Maccabi Tel Aviv in a final game full of emotions. Former Maccabi player Oded Katash led the Greens to the victory. There was crying as the fans of both teams were cheering and singing for him on the way from the arena to the airport.

It’s only the fifth time in history of the contemporary Final Four that a team has the opportunity to win the trophy in its own home court, and Panathinaikos cannot take much hope from past results! Amongst the four teams which have previously tried to become European champions at home, only two, Barcelona in 2003 and Maccabi Tel Aviv in 2004, have reached that goal. Kinder Bologna in 2002 and CSKA Moscow in 2005 failed to do so, therefore one way or another Panathinaikos is going to tip the balance in favor of playing at home, or not.

Related links > http://www.oaka.com.gr

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