Train rolls into Belgrade, Serbia for another great show tomorrow night.
In 1989, The City of Belgrade was chosen to host the Basketball World Championship of 1994. However, there was a condition for the city to build an all-new basketball arena. The city government immediately started a competition to find the best design of the new arena that was supposed to have a seat capacity of 20,000. The design submitted by Belgrade architect Vlada Slavica was chosen as the best.
In 1991 a location for the project was chosen – “Blok 25” in New Belgrade. However the project was already becoming problematic. There were only 3 years left to the World Championships and building this mega structure would have to be done in record time. A team of 126 companies was formed to be part of the arena committee. Two architects were chosen to design the arena’s roof.
In 1992 construction started as the arena committee formed a partnership with American company HOK that has had many experiences with building sporting objects. However, tough times were ahead. As the disintegration of Yugoslavia started, the United Nations imposed sanctions on the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (made up of the two remaining republics at the time – Serbia and Montenegro) and HOK stopped all co-operation with the arena committee. Even with this set back, work on the Belgrade Arena continued.
In 1993, Belgrade suffered one of its worst economic years in modern history. The Federal Republic of Yugoslavia experienced record inflation rates, and as a result of the sanctions and the conflicts in Yugoslavia, Belgrade lost the right to host the 1994 Basketball World Championships.
Following the formal announcement by FIBA, the arena’s construction still continued for some time, though at a considerably slower pace due to the lack of material. However, sometime in 1995 the construction completely stopped. Work on the arena re-commenced in 1998 as the city was chosen to host the World Table Tennis Championships in 1999 to be held in the Belgrade Arena. By this time the roof was already taking shape towards completion, part of the façade was done and the interior was half complete. Once again, Yugoslavia lost the privilege to host the competition as the city was bombed by NATO forces the year the competition was supposed to be held.
The first public event held in the Arena (which was still under construction at the time) was the final Slobodan Milošević (president of Yugoslavia at the time) 2000 presidential election campaign rally, which was held September 20, 2000. This was the last time Milošević has held a public speech. Two weeks later, he was ousted after mass protests across the country.
After a change of government in Yugoslavia in 2000 and the lifting of all sanctions imposed on the country, the Arena, under new management was completed in 2004 in time for the FIBA Diamond Ball tournament and Belgrade finally got the right to host The European Basketball Championship 2005.
Temporary licenses for public use expired in early 2006, following a series of sport events and concerts in 2005. Works on an automated fire prevention system and installation of elevators to meet European standards were completed by November 2006, while no events were held in the Arena in the meantime. The Belgrade Arena received its permanent public use license on November 4, 2006 and re-opened its doors as a result.
In February 2007, Serbian basketball coach Božidar Maljković started an initiative to name the Arena after another renowned Serbian basketball coach, Aleksandar Nikolić. Maljković presented his initiative to the city officials and the president of Serbia Boris Tadić, but the name change hasn’t been accepted yet.
The Belgrade Arena has been given the honour to be the venue of the Eurovision Song Contest 2008 in May 2008. The Arena was host to the 2 semi-finals and the final as well as dress and performance rehearsals. As a result a new multimedia room with latest technology was opened in February 2008 in order to accommodate the technical team that would be in charge of the Eurovision broadcast.
Belgrade Arena is a member of the European Arenas Association (EAA).
The first event held in the Belgrade Arena was a Socialist Party of Serbia and Yugoslav Left final election campaign rally, held September 20, 2000 before the 2000 elections in Yugoslavia. The construction of the Arena wasn’t finished at that time. The official opening came nearly four years later, July 31, 2004, when the FIBA Diamond Ball basketball tournament was held. Since Arena had only temporary license, only several events were held during the next two and a half years. The first event held after getting permanent license was the 50 Cent concert, on November 6, 2006.
One of the biggest events to take place in the Arena was the Eurovision Song Contest 2008. In the final night of the contest an audience of over 20,000 was present. Other big events held in the Arena include numerous sporting events, notably the European championships in basketball (EuroBasket 2005), volleyball (2005 Men’s European Volleyball Championship), table tennis (2007 European Table Tennis Championships), and judo (2007 European Judo Championships). The Belgrade Arena was also one of the 69 venues to take part in the 2009 Summer Universiade Games, hosting the opening and closing ceremonies, as well as the basketball competition. Arena was the host venue for the concerts of the most significant artists of Serbia and former Yugoslavia, as well as major international stars, including Iron Maiden, Queen + Paul Rodgers, Rammstein, Mark Knopfler, Phil Collins, Chris Rea, Lenny Kravitz, Rihanna, Nick Cave, Joe Cocker, Andrea Bocelli, The Pussycat Dolls, Alicia Keys, Il Divo, Jean Michel Jarre,Backstreet Boys,David Copperfield,Eros Ramazzotti and many others. The Arena also hosted the second Green Fest music festival with performances by Franz Ferdinand, Cypress Hill and The Raveonettes and many other concerts, political rallies, product exhibitions and numerous other events.
Also, in several international competitions, the record attendance has been set at the Arena. On February 2, 2009, the 2009 Fed Cup World Group II, Serbia vs. Japan tennis match set a record for an ITF event attendance with a crowd of 15,118 spectators.On March 5, 2009, the first Partizan Belgrade basketball game at Belgrade Arena was held, a 2008–09 Euroleague Top 16 match against Greek powerhouse Panathinaikos. A crowd of 22,567, a record for the Euroleague (and also for any basketball club game held indoors in Europe), saw Partizan win 63–56.On July 26, 2009, the FIVB World League final between Serbia and Brazil was held in Belgrade Arena, with an attendance of 22,680, which is a record of Belgrade Arena, and World League.
Location and influence
The Belgrade Arena is situated on E-70/E-75 highway, leading to Novi Sad and Budapest in the North, Zagreb in the West and Niš and Skopje in the South. The New Belgrade part of the highway bears the name Bulevar Arsenija Čarnojevića. Arena’s parking is limited in spaces, though nearby residential areas provide enough room for vehicles.
It takes a 15-minute drive from Belgrade Nikola Tesla Airport to the Arena. Ride from downtown Belgrade would take the same amount of time, unless in rush-hour, when it could take up to 30 minutes to get to central Novi Beograd, where the Arena is located.
The construction of the Arena has caused a substantial increase in prices for apartments in the surrounding area, which are mostly new. A new modern business district is scheduled to be constructed across the Belgrade Arena. Hotel IN was the first new hotel to be built near the Arena however the venue is also within walking distance from Hyatt Regency Belgrade and Continental Hotel Belgrade.