In a bit of a shock result, the joint bid from Ukraine and Poland has beaten hot favourites Italy to the right to host the Euro 2012 football tournament.
There had been fears that the current political crisis in Ukraine, combined with a recent Polish match fixing scandal would hurt the two countries’ bid. But, instead, it seems that Italy’s problems with referee corruption, and the recent crowd trouble which resulted in the death of a policeman and forced the suspension of the Italian domestic season, was enough to see the Poland/Ukraine bid through.
As well as that, presentations by the Presidents of Poland and Ukraine undoubtedly helped to turn the tide against Italy:
“We thought the political situation could hamper our bid. There were such speculations circulating in UEFA’s corridors,” Volodymyr Lashkul, the vice president of the Ukrainian Football Federation, told Reuters. “But that didn’t happen. The two presidents who came to the presentation yesterday — Viktor Yushchenko and [Polish President] Lech Kaczynski — made a breakthrough in the situation.”
Just over half of the matches in the tournament will be played in Poland but, to compensate, Ukraine will host the final of Euro 2012 in the Kiev Olympic Stadium.
Neither country has hosted a European or World cup before (although Ukraine did host the 1980 Olympics’ football tournament), so there is a lot of work to be done. In Ukraine alone, six stadiums will need to be either renovated, or rebuilt from scratch in just four and a half years. A tall order, but one that I think Ukraine and Poland will meet.
Yay! That’s great news! Ukraine’s decision to allow visa free travel to EU citizens is paying off nicely. There was probably little chance Ukraine would have been awarded the prize if they’d retained their Russian-style visa requirements.
Not so easy for Ukrainians to enter into Poland as it is for them to enter Russia.
Freedom House and some others will be happy about this. In some instances, it will be for the odious reason of seeking to promote Ukrainian-Polish relations at the expense of Russia-Ukrainian ties.
Well here’s the news: for whatever differences western Ukraine (especially Galicia) has with Russia, many there have a greater loathing for Poland.
Many don’t know this out of an ignorance of being raised on unchallenged anti-Russian propaganda.
Actually, it’s relatively easy to enter Poland for Ukrainians, the visa is free (but is definitely required), you just have to go to the consulate in Kyiv (or Lviv). Hardly anyone ever gets rejected. The only problem is ground travel. You can get stuck senselessly for 4-5 hours at border checkpoints like Krakivets (as I did on a few occasions). Flying is best, but is still rather pricy for ordinary Ukrainians.
But this is the biggest thing to happen to Ukraine… well, since yesterday 🙂 And how will this hurt Russia-Ukraine relations and WHO CARES?! I think most ordinary Russians will be thrilled to travel only a few hours to see top-quality football. Even those raised on unchallenged anti-Russian propaganda (whose parents obviously failed to read to them Mr. Surkov’s “Nationalizing the Future” regularly before bedtime) should realize that sports are above politics. Moscow, did, after all, get to host the final of the Champions League in 2008, didn’t hear Ukrainians complaining about that.
Moreover, it’ll be a huge impetus to invest in infrastructure and develop communication networks in the whole region. As the pundits on Fox Soccer Channel keep repeating, it is 2,000 miles from Gdansk to Donetsk. But the Ukrainian government (plus private investors) promised to pour $4 billion into this, so Godspeed!
What does Surkov have to do with this?
Ideally, sports and politics shouldn’t mix. That’s not always the case and you bet that there’s a political angle regarding this Poland-Ukraine duet.
There should be no complaints about Russia hosting the ’08 final. It’s being held in a major Euro city which (if I’m correct) had never hosted it.
BTW, I’ve heard from Ukrainians that entering Poland wasn’t so easy for them. Perhaps the difficulty level has declined.
I think its absolutely brilliant that Poland and Ukraine have got Euro 2012. Both countries have got marvellous footballing history and its great that cavernous stadium in Kiev, where so many teams met their Waterloo at the hands of Dynamo in the not so distant past, is getting to host such a huge event. Italy had the World Cup in 1990 and it was poorly attended – and Italy is a football superpower. Four years later the USA gave us the best of the modern world cups with astounding attendances by the locals. Its no bad thing that these tournaments are shared around and not given to the big names. I’m a firm believer if that fans are arent filling stadiums then give it to someone else. Euro 96 in England was the same -appalling attendances. I remember only 10,000 fans showing up for Bulgaria v Romania at Newcastle – two teams who had thrilled the world only two years earlier, containing names like Stoichkov and Hagi. Dreadful stuff that I think scuppered England’s attempt to get the World Cup in 2010. UEFA and FIFA have learned from this and power to them; I dont want to see half empty stadiums on my tv. It not good enough.
As for political interference, this is just normality. Blair seemingly had a lot to do with London getting the Olympics in 2012. If you can use it to get tournaments, I dont see that the problem is. Its better than Salt Lake City style bribery thats for sure. I agree with Igor’s point above that all this is above politics. Every four years, the whole world or Europe puts aside their troubles and gives us a month of brilliant entertainment. Remember Iranian and American players having a joint team photo and swapping bouquets at France 98? Thats what its all about. No politics, moaning and bullshit. Well done Poland and Ukraine and roll on 2012! Maladyets!
I think while Russia is a relatively bad neighbor, this will be a good thing for EVERYONE. I would venture to say that at least 30% of traffic to the Ukrainian stadiums will be made of Russians. Football is the only thing in Russia that is not politicized and is practically a religion. Ukraine should cater to the Russian football fan as well as European as it will profit handsomely.