Victory (for Poland-Ukraine in UEFA 2012)!
by Paul Miazga
May 9 is celebrated as Victory Day in Ukraine (commemorating the defeat of fascist forces in WWII), but another, more recent reason to celebrate victory came recently to the country, and it involves the whole of Europe in the same way Victory Day did back in 1945.
The big news of victory, for those who hadn’t heard, was that the European Union of Football Associations – the governing body for football (soccer) in Europe had selected a joint bid by Poland and Ukraine to host the 2012 European football championships! It’s not just big news – it’s huge! The championship, or Euro 2012 as it will be known, happens to be the third-largest sporting event in the world after the FIFA World Cup and the Summer Olympic Games.
What does co-hosting Euro 2012 mean for Ukraine? Plenty: more money spent on roads, hotels, stadiums, public transportation and upgrades to Boryspil Airport and the Vokzal (central train station); millions upon millions of tourists from across Europe and the world will flood the country for the event, and it will mean a huge chance for Ukrainians, their politicians and the whole country to unite and show the world some classic aspects of Ukrainian hospitality, replete with vodka and salo! I, for one, am rather looking forward to it (and not just because I’m a big football fan, having followed Team Ukraine to Germany for two games during the recent FIFA World Cup there). The atmosphere at such events can not be described but must simply be experienced firsthand to be understood.
While Ukraine continues to fight well for a spot in the upcoming Euro 2008 tournament co-hosted by Austria-Switzerland, they and co-hosts Poland will have their spots guaranteed at Euro 2012, so look forward from 2009 onwards to seeing Team Ukraine play a host of friendlies against major international powerhouses (perhaps including Brazil, Argentina and the like) in the build-up to the tournament!
Protestors go home, Kyiv warmer, happier
Other good news this week brought an end to the ongoing political standoff between forces allied with President Viktor Yushchenko, who signed a decree on April 4 dissolving parliament, and Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych, whom the president accused of trying to usurp power using unconstitutional means.
The dispute, which found its most obvious and physical manifestation in the leagues of protestors who took to the streets of Kyiv over the past four weeks, was brought to an end late last week with the president and PM agreed to early parliamentary elections. Ukrainians will go to the ballot boxes as early as the first week of July to decide if the Yanukovych government still serves their best interests.
Once the protestors left over the weekend, the city took on a much happier, livelier air. I immediately felt that we, the residents and citizens of Kyiv, finally had our city back. During the Orange Revolution, the sense at that time was that this was a fight for right, of good over evil. This most recent stand-off, despite the comparisons to the protests of late 2004, had little in common with that event. While politically charged, the recent protests felt staged, an annoyance and lacking the spirit that fueled the first event. The people who took part last time understood the gravity of the situation, while many of those this time, especially those from the PM’s side, really lacked any understanding of what the whole debate was about. Not terribly encouraging for hope of national reconciliation or unity, but at least we have our city back!
“Ukrainian Football Federation President Hryhoriy Surkis (right) isn’t the only one happy that Poland and Ukraine will jointly host the Euro 2012 football championships.” (www.shanghaidaily.com)