Response by fans to the 2006 Final Four in Prague next month has been widespread and impressive, Euroleague Basketball CEO Jordi Bertomeu told a press conference in the Czech Republic capital on Thursday. Mr. Bertomeu reported that almost two-thirds of the 16,300 seats available for the Final Four, to be held April 28 to 30 in Prague's state-of-the-art Sazka Arena, are already accounted for between ticket sales and allotments set aside for the four teams that qualify. What's more, the list of fans who have bought tickets so far covers a remarkable total of 37 different countries, including 17% of sales from the Czech Republic itself. Mr. Bertomeu also announced
the start of Final Four media accreditation next Monday, March 13, and estimated that 15 television companies will broadcast the Final Four to 50 or more countries around the world. Mr. Bertomeu also confirmed several parallel events coinciding with Final Four weekend, including the fourth annual International Junior Tournament, with representatives from eight Euroleague clubs, a symposium to discuss the television market for basketball, and of course, the gala dinner at which the 2005-06 All-Euroleague Team will be revealed.
"This is the first time we bring a Final Four to a non-traditional basketball market, and many people ask why," Bertomeu said. "We have four reasons. One, we received great support from the administrations of Prague and the Czech Republic. Two, we have a great partner in Ceska Sportovni, which has shown an exceptional level of professionalism. Three, we have Sazka Arena, if not the absolute best, then one of the best arenas in Europe. And four, there is the magnificent city of Prague and the hospitality of its people. With all that, we have confidence that the Final Four will be a great success. During the last week of April, we are bringing the best basketball in Europe - and perhaps the best worldwide in sporting terms - to Prague."
Mr. Bertomeu was joined at the press conference by the Czech Republic Education and Sport Minister, Petra Buzkova, by Prague city hall representative Petr Hulinski, and by Ceska Sportovni CEO Vladimir Safarik.
"The Euroleague took a very good decision by bringing the Final Four to Prague," Mr. Buzkova said. "The hard work of our institutions and of Ceska Sportovni is going to demonstrate the organizational capacity of the Czech Republic."
"If the Final Four was played two weeks from now, we would already be fully prepared for a great event," Mr. Safarik said. "For those of us at Ceska Sportovni, working on this Final Four has been magnificent, because we are getting to know new people and some new ways of doing things that will add great things to our organization."
"Prague has organized great events in the past related to ice hockey and other sports," Mr. Hulinski said. "This Final Four is a new sport for us, and I can assure you that all the institutions involved are making it the best it can be. I am sure that all the visitors coming from April 28 to 30 will enjoy great basketball and a great city."
The press conference also featured the presentation of the official Molten basketballs to be used at the 2006 Final Four by the cheerleaders for that event, as well as a message from a former Euroleague player from the Czech Republic, Jiri Welsch, now in the NBA. "I continue to follow the Euroleague whenever I can," Welsch said in an audio message. "People ask what the difference is between the Euroleague and the NBA, and while it's clear that there are differences in the rules, at a sporting level I can say that there is no difference."