While the players and coaches of the four teams are certainly the protagonists at the Turkish Airlines Euroleague Final Four, there is a fifth co-star playing a special MVP role all its own this weekend: the host city of Barcelona. From the first act of this four-day celebration of basketball, the opening press conference in the ornate Salo de Cent at the city hall, to the moment when a champion is crowned Sunday at Palau Sant Jordi, Barcelona has shown itself to be a capital of sport and culture like few, if any, other cities in the world. It has been a union of a second-to-none weekend of top-level basketball with a host city that put on its own show for the many thousands of guests from all five continents here at the Turkish Airlines Euroleague Final Four.
While the visiting fans are enjoying the city-wide basketball party that has engulfed Barcelona for Final Four weekend, the players have needed to focus more on basketball in preparation for the semifinals. However, that has not stopped them from taking notice of the special city that is hosting them.
"It’s definitely a great city," said Maccabi’s Jeremy Pargo after his team practice on Thursday. “Last time I was here, I got a chance to visit Las Ramblas and it’s a very exciting place. You get to see a lot of things you don't expect to see, and we are very excited to be here."
Teammate Derrick Sharp, who participated in the refurbishment of Auroras Court in the Raval neighborhood early Thursday morning along with several other Final Four players, underlined "Barcelona's modern feel, with outstanding architecture and great people". As the veteran point guard says: "It’s one of the best cities in the world, and it's always great to come back and see the beautiful buildings."
Real Madrid star Felipe Reyes spoke in glowing fashion of the seaside city that gives his club its strongest national rival: "It's spectacular in every sense, especially with the beachfront, which we don't have in Madrid. A beautiful town with plenty of museums and monuments, and just walking to the ancient city center is one marvelous sight after another."
It’s not like Reyes has not been to Barcelona before, though that does not mean the Madrid captain isn’t discovering new places at this stage: "I have been many times here to play with my team. Unfortunately, we have not been able to stretch out and explore all that much, but I do know the Ramblas and, just [Thursday] morning, at the opening press conference, I was able to enter City Hall, which is just a beautiful building in a beautiful neighborhood, which I had yet to discover. I loved it."
Teammate and fellow Madrid native Carlos Suarez shares the admiration for many of the same reasons, although he is quick to account for the sports feel of a city that is truly passionate about its teams and competitions. "I have family nearby in Mataro and I have been here, where basketball is followed passionately, many times," Suarez said. "I love hanging out at the beach, especially since I live in Madrid, but the great thing is that you can have the sea and the mountain at a short distance. Another factor that sets it apart is that it has held the Olympics, and the change that ensued after that is really noticeable today, as you can tell with the high-caliber facilities like Palau Sant Jordi."