Did you know that Novak Djokovic, LeBron James, Tim Duncan, Allen Iverson, Dirk Nowitzki, Nikola Jokic, Mikkel Hansen, Ivana Spanovic, Luka Doncic, Ivan Miljkovic, Filip Filipovic played in the same place which will be the starting and ending point of the fifth European Universities Games in Belgrade? Did you know that David Copperfield, Andrea Bocelli, Rihanna, Phil Collins, Gypsy Kings, Enrique and Julio Iglesias, Rammstein, David Guetta, Bob Dylan performed here?
Stark Arena in Belgrade, the largest multifunctional facility in this part of Europe, is a place of rich sports history and entertainment programs that annually bring up to 800,000 visitors under its vaults.
The history of the Arena intended for sports, cultural, entertainment, exhibition and other events begins in 1991, when began its construction in New Belgrade.
Originally, Yugoslavia was supposed to host the 1994 World Basketball Championship in the Arena, and that was the reason why the city authorities in 1989 announced a competition for the design of a sports facility with a capacity of 20,000 seats.
Circumstances in the former Yugoslavia made the construction of the Arena a new century. The first real event that filled the stands of the facility with a capacity of 18,386 chairs was the FIBA Diamond League tournament in 2004, after which the guests of Belgrade were NBA stars gathering in the “dream team” in preparation for the Olympic Games in Athens that summer. A team led by planetary stars such as LeBron James, Allen Iverson, Carmel Anthony and Tim Duncan defeated the team of Serbia and Montenegro 78:60 led by Dejan Bodiroga, Igor Rakocevic and Nenad Krstic.
A year later, Belgrade and Serbia hosted the European Basketball Championship, which ended with a spectacle at the Arena in which Greece won gold ahead of Germany-led MVP tournament Dirk Nowitzki. The same year, the final tournament of the World Volleyball League and part of the European Volleyball Championship were played under the vaults of the Arena.
In the following years, the European Table Tennis, Karate and Judo Championships, the opening and closing ceremonies of the European Youth Olympic Festival (EYOF – 2007), the Summer Universiade (2009), the World Volleyball League record (2009) with 22,680 spectators at the Serbia and Brazil finals were organized in the Arena.
One of the moments that will remain forever engraved in the nation’s sports memory is related to winning the Davis Cup of the generation of Serbian tennis players led by Novak Djokovic in the final against France in front of the thrilled stands of the Arena in December 2010.
The years 2012 and 2013 were dedicated to handball. Three major competitions were held, the European Championship for men 2012, that is the European (2012) and the World Championship (2013) for women. The 2013 WC final between Serbia and Brazil in front of 19,467 spectators will be remembered as the most watched match in the history of women’s handball.
Stark Arena is the place of the most viewed game in the history of water polo. The finals of the European Championship 2016 between Serbia and Montenegro were watched by 18,473 fans.
The European Athletics Championships held in 2017 reached its great long jumps of one of the best athletes of today, Ivana Spanovic.
A year later, the farewell from European basketball at the final tournament of the EuroLeague in Belgrade was given to the Slovenian superstar Luka Doncic, who lifted the cup with Real Madrid.
The last big event was the European Women’s Basketball Championship in 2019.
It’s time for some new pages in sports history. It will be written by thousands of students – participants of the fifth European Universities Games in Belgrade, which will be held from July 14 to 27, 2021.
See you in the Serbian capital!