Posts filed under ‘Basketball’

Lithuania Will Have To Fight for Barack Obama’s Attention

I would like to offer you an interview of the Ambassador of the Republic of Lithuania to the USA Audrius Bruzga on his reactions to the President’s Obamas inauguration.  The daily Vilniaus Diena published the interview on January 21.

A new generation politician, who sees the world differently than his predecessor, has entered the White House. On the eve of the inauguration, Audrius Bruzga, Lithuanian ambassador to the US, told our daily what Lithuania can expect after Barack Obama gets behind the wheel of the country in the US.

[Vilniaus Diena] What moods have been prevalent in Washington, as the historical day – the new president’s inauguration – is approaching?

[Bruzga] The presidential election campaign was exceptionally long – two years. However, from the beginning it was clear that Obama was a completely different politician. He is full of energy, youthful vigour, and fresh ideas. Therefore, people have high hopes regarding him.

The inauguration of the first black US president is truly symbolic, because it is conducted right after the Martin Luther King Day. Obama tries to stress the connection with Abraham Lincoln, the 16th president. He tries to present himself as someone who unites and builds bridges in a divided nation.

The election euphoria can still be felt in the US. Polls show that approximately 80 per cent of respondents trust the new president and wish him luck – this is an exceptionally high approval rating. However, it will not be easy for Obama to maintain it. The starting point is very low, no matter what kind of president gets into the White House. The economic situation is very bad and can get even worse.

[Vilniaus Diena] A man who has a new vision and who is ready to fix the pervious administration’s mistakes will head the White House. What changes can Lithuania expect in the ties with the US?

[Bruzga] The US is turning a new page in its history, and the changes seem pretty drastic. There will be many new beginnings. It is hard to say what those beginnings will look like. People are reading the new president’s programmes and are watching Obama’s team. Some of them are already known – they are people from former President Bill Clinton’s team. Recalling Clinton’s presidency, one can expect certain continuity. However, the new president will give the orders. For now it is difficult to predict how he will arrange his priorities.

Lithuania was well respected in the US under Clinton and under George W. Bush. We were a small, but faithful partner. Faithful to the ideas and values, in creating transatlantic security. The dialogue between the two nations was sincere, open, and quite productive. One hopes it will remain so under Obama, too.

[Vilniaus Diena] During Bush’s presidency, Lithuania joined NATO and achieved visa-free regime with the US. What other concrete steps does Lithuania expect from Washington and the new US president?

[Bruzga] The times are changing, of course, and global processes will influence the new administration’s agenda and attention. There will not be enough time and energy for everything. A certain period of time will pass, before the new administration settles down, sets priorities, and starts working.

During this transitional period it is important for Lithuania to establish contacts with the new government, to meet with new officials, and to ensure the continuity of our relations, so that the US’ attention for Lithuania, the Baltic states, and the entire Europe does not diminish.

Lithuania will strongly support the notion of developing and strengthening the transatlantic ties. Lithuania is also for continuing the cooperation between the US and Europe and for fixing the existing gaps.

We will continue the dialogue related to processes in Eastern Europe. I think the new administration’s attention to what is happening in Ukraine, the Caucasus, and the Balkans will not diminish. We must continue cooperating in the area of energy. In this area Europe and the US still have a lot of work to do. The growing need for renewable energy will unite us for common work.

[Vilniaus Diena] According to analysts, Obama is a softer and a more pragmatic president than Bush. Will this affect Washington’s ties with Moscow?

[Bruzga] The emphasis and evaluations will change somewhat, but I would not predict any major changes. During the election campaign and now, during the formation of his programme, Obama has emphasized Russia less. However, speeches by Obama and other members of the new administration show that the changes, if there will be any, will be minimal. Perhaps the stance on Russia will become more reasonable, structured, and pragmatic, and will be less emotional.

[Vilniaus Diena] Is Obama more favourable partner for Lithuania than Bush?

[Bruzga] I would like to emphasize that Bush was very favourable towards Lithuania in his spirit and his understanding of freedom. During his presidency, Lithuania straightened its back, joined NATO, and achieved the visa-free regime. This is a small step, but it is a symbolic sign of freedom development.

We would like to maintain the same ties between the two countries under Obama, too. Of course, Obama, as a politician, is different, a man from a different generation. He did not served in the WWII, the Cold War does not affect him emotionally so strongly. He will view the world in a wider and more pragmatic way. Therefore, it will not be easy for partners to fight for the US’ attention. The new administration will face many challenges and will set its priorities by considering the US’ national interests above all else.

Lithuania will have to try to retain the US’ attention, so that the high bar does not get lowered; so that the US presence does not diminish in Europe and Lithuania.

The fact that Obama plays basketball, and plays it well, is a fact that is favourable and pleasant for us. He will at least understand Lithuania’s enthusiasm regarding basketball. Let us hope this will help him to get to know our country better.

Source BBC Monitoring Service

The Lithuanians are looking for ways of attracting the US’ attention to itself.  Only few days ago in the light of President Obama’s plea to EU allies of accepting some inmates from the Guantanamo bay Lithuania’s Minister of Foreign Affairs have announced that Lithuania could possibly shelter few inmates.  Vilniaus Diena paper even has suggested that this could be a good idea, a small price to pay for the USA attention.

However, on Friday Mr Kaseta the deputy Parliament Speaker and the member of the National Defence and Security Committee announced that Lithuania has not made up its mind yet.  Mr. Usackas on the other hand was less enthusiastic about the Guantanamo inmates.  Nevertheless during his interview to the LNK TV Channel the Minister admitted that the Lithuanians are discussing the matter with the US Embassy officials.  It sounds as the Lithuanians will wait or the Brussels reactions and decisions on the issue.

It is assumed in Lithuania that Washington will continue its policy unchanged at least towards the Eastern Europe and the Baltic States.  I know that George W. Bush was an unpopular President.  However, there are words hammered in on the Vilnius’ Town Hall in Lithuanian and English ‘anyone who would choose Lithuania as an enemy has also made an enemy of the United States of America’.  Those words were followed by ‘the long night of fear, uncertainty and loneliness is over.” The President of the USA George W. Bush announced those words to the crowed of the people in the front of the Town Hall in November 2002.  The Lithuanians sincerely hope that President Obama will not forget this promise.   


February 2, 2009 at 11:35 pm 2 comments

‘Kosovo is Serbia!’ a slogan in Vilnius

KFOR in KosovoIt is only a matter of days before Lithuania officially will recognize the Kosovo Independence.  Meanwhile the Lietuvos Rytas basketball club supporters raised a banner ‘Kosovo is Serbia’ during a match just few days ago.  So, what is happening in Lithuania?

First of all lets talk big politics.  According to the Lithuanian Constitution such an act could be adopted only by the Parliament (Seimas).  However, some politicians argue that the President alone could do this.

Nevertheless, the President already congratulated Kosovars with their Independence and asked the Minter of Foreign Affairs to submit the recognition proposal to Seimas.Hence, Seimas will begun its spring session on the 10th of March.  Then it looks that the matter will be solved soon after.  When the Chairman of the Seimas’ Foreign Affairs Committee was asked why Vilnius is lagging behind its Baltic neighbours and does not recognise Kosovo now he replied that ‘this is not a sports race’.

Well said, because Lithuania and Serbia (maybe more accurately, ex-Yugoslavia) has a very long sports ‘love and hate’ relationship.  This is of course about Lithuania’s second religion – HM basketball.  Since the Soviet times every game between a Lithuanian team and an ex-Yugoslavian team (regardless BCs or on the National lever after we gained Independence) was a nerve rack.  Lithuanians were good but the Serbs or Croatians could also play, and sometimes win.  When the Lithuanians lost it was never our fault, it was the Yugoslavians who bribed the referees, and so on, and so forth.

We have one or two ex-Yugoslav basketball players here and our Lietuvos Rytas team is trained by a Serb Trifunovic.  As we know the sports could be very political.  A great manifestation of that was a match in Vilnius when some of the Lietuvos Rytas’ supporters raised a banner with a slogan ‘Kosovo is Serbia!’  The Serbian coach refused to comment on it.

I am not convinced that the supports thought about the politics, more likely they thought about a moral support for their coach.  Same as the Kaunas’ Žalgiris suporters raised the Palestinian flag during a game with the Tel Aviv Maccabi team.  I am quite convinced that when the Lietuvos Rytas will change the coach to not a Serbian, we will see the Kosovo flags flying during a match against a Serbian team.  The Lithuanian sports fans are notorious of their Political Incorrectness.  We should only remember when the Lithuanian national team’s football fans unveiled a large banner with a shape of African Continent in the French national colours with a slogan ‘Welcome to Europe’.

Even thought the Lithuanian media is covering the Kosovo events well, I am not sure that many Lithuanians too concerned what is happening there.  However, the media and the politicians are quite united in support of Kosovo case.  First of all, Serbia is portrayed as the last bastion of the Russian influence in the Balkans.  Hence, this automatically puts Serbia ‘on the wrong side of the fence.’  Second of all, the commentators argue that this is not an ideal solution to the problem but it is the best in this complex situation.

However, there is a feeling in the air that the Serbs put their bet on the wrong horse, starting with Milosovech and ending up with the Russians.  Nevertheless, the Lithuanians congratulated the outcome of the Presidential elections in Serbia.

But the biggest talk in town at the moment is not Kosovo, it is the Vilnius Book Fair, the International Baltic book fair.  Reading books is once again become a fashionable past time in Lithuania.  This year the Fair welcomed the acclaimed American novelist John Irving (read an interview with him) and the most popular living Norwegian writer Per Petterson.

P.S. I am not sure that many from the general public aware that the Kosovars are the Muslims.  Having in mind that absolute majority of the Lithuanians have a ‘reserved’ attitude towards the Muslims, their view of Kosovo would alter.  Paradox is that a ‘reserved’ attitude towards the other races than white does not obstruct Lithuanians’ fascination with the black NBA players.  Furthermore, my generation’s never ending ‘love affair’ with Freddy Mercury goes on despite a very ‘reserved’ view towards the gay persons. 

February 22, 2008 at 2:18 pm 8 comments

Lithuanian basketball supporter’s been released from the Madrid prison

Tomas Balaisis-SeklaThe most famous Lithuanian basketball supporter Tomas Balaišis-Sėkla has been released from detention in Madrid and would be able to attend tonight’s match between Lithuania and Slovenia.  However, the supported will have to return to Madrid sometime in September or October for a hearing, since the Spanish policeman was not able to formulate his accusations against the supporter.

The incident acured between the Spanish police and the Lithuanian national team’s supporters two days ago just before the Lithuania – France match.

The Lithuanian national media actively reacted to the incident.  Even the Lithuanian Prime Minister Mr Kirkilas office issued a press release regarding the incident.  Part of it states that – ‘Concerned about media reports on the incident between Lithuanian basketball fans and Spanish police in Madrid, during which the Lithuanian flag was torn and the fans were beaten by the police, Prime Minister Gediminas Kirkilas held a telephone conversation with the country’s Ambassador to Spain Mečys Laurinkus.’

Basketball is regarded as a second religion in Lithuania, after Catholicism.

September 12, 2007 at 4:10 pm Leave a comment

Lithuanian basketball fans clashed with the Spanish police

LT basketball fans in a front the Spanish embassy in VilniusAs the BNS reported some fans of Lithuanian basketball team suffered right before the match of Lithuania and France in Madrid. Fans of the Lithuanian team and the police officers pushed each other near entrance to the arena on Monday night.One of the Lithuanian fans suffered during the incident, he was taken to the police commissariat with handcuffs and beat-in head. As the agency informed  according to primary data, the incident arose when one of Lithuanian fans tried to bring Lithuanian flag with long handle into the arena. Guards of the Spanish arena forbade that and they tried to solve the problem by cutting the flag, Lithuanians resisted it. Additional force came for suppression of the indignant Lithuanians, they started beating Lithuanians with rubber sticks.According to the report, Lithuanian women also got several beats of the officers.

However, the Lithuanian Ambassador confirmed that both, Lithuanians and the Madrid police are presenting the different sides to the same story.Sekla in the hands of the Spanish policeSome of the Lithuanian basketball fans gathered in the front of the Spanish embassy in Vilnius to protest against detention of on the most known Lithuanian basketball fan Sekla, at the incident scene.  The Lithuanian might face a penalty of 1.000 Euro or even more serious concequencies.

As the BNS reported according to the information available to the ambassador, observation cameras are installed in the incident location, so it will not be difficult to find out the truth. On Tuesday, Spanish court will decide how to punish the fan detained, diplomats of Lithuanian embassy to Spain will also attend the hearings.Lithuania‘s attaché in Spain Mindaugas Gabrenas informed BNS that Balaisis detained by the police is accused of resisting to the police officer and will probably be implied a fine. “A stepped-up trial will take place this morning, I will also go to it and I also will be the interpreter in the process. A lawyer has been appointed for the Lithuanian, we expect to finish it today,” Gabrenas told BNS.

In his words, more Lithuanians experienced troubles during the incident on Monday.

“They all feel hurt morally, but I myself saw two people who suffered physically: lightly injured detainee and one girl. We went to a hospital with her yesterday at midnight, she asked for medical examination, today we have plans to apply to the police because of bodily injuries,” the diplomat said. In his words, there are different versions of the incident. “The media says one, the fans another, the police has the third version and all the versions are different. As far as I understood, the incident arose because of a try to bring in a flag with stem, even though it is forbidden to bring such things into arena. The police tried to take off the stem, the flag kind of was torn, I cannot say it exactly because I did not see the flag. Then the conflict arose and spread into other locations of the arena. Additional police forces were brought, the most aggressive our fans were dispersed and calmed down,” Gabrenas said.Still, the Lithuanian team won the match against French with a result 88:73 and has no losses in the European Championship

September 11, 2007 at 3:20 pm 5 comments

Skandal!!! Lithuanian Natl Basketball team lost to the Swedes in Lithuania

Lithuanian Kaukenas against a Swedish player

The game took place in a new Šiauliai city sports arena, which was open only few day ago.  The Swedes managed to get into front from the first minutes and won the game 62:69 (18:22, 14:15, 18:19, 12:12). 

Basketball is a second religion in Lithuania.  The national team is getting ready for the European Championship.  This is a major blow to a new coach of the national team.

I spoke with two Swedish tourists in Vilnius, who happen to be in a bar where the game was on.  After admitting that that they didn’t know much about basketball they said that they were surprised to learn that Sweden had a national team at all….

Just imagine if Lithuania would beat the national Swedish Ice Hockey team…  Congratulations Sweden, for those of you who are interested in basketball!

July 28, 2007 at 12:05 am 1 comment


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