POLAND: UEFA EURO 2012 soccer tournament: so far so good!18.06.2012, 16:33
Ten days after the EURO 2012, hosted by Poland and Ukraine, kicked off at Warsaw's National Stadium, the event seems to be running smoothly despite a few minor incidents. Flooded by fans from all over Europe, the four Polish host cities (Warsaw, Wroclaw, Gdansk, and Poznan) are coping magnificently and people – locals and visitors alike – seem to be having a blast. This is certainly the biggest carnival this country has ever seen and festivities will continue until the end of June, even though the Polish team failed to make it to quarterfinals.
Thousands of supporters have been congregating daily at fan zones in the host cities to cheer for their teams, watching the games on giant screens.
Those more fortunate watched the matches at four brand new stadiums, which have likewise passed the test so far, except for the Spanish team complaining about the Gdansk pitch being too dry. There have been no major issues as far transportation, accommodation and organization are concerned, much to the surprise of the Poles themselves, and despite earlier concerns, beer has remained in steady supply.
Perhaps the only unpleasant moment of the tournament so far were the clashes between hooligans and the police on 12 June, prior to the Poland-Russia game. Interestingly, as groups of adrenaline-filled thugs (Russians and Poles) were settling their imagined scores, tens of thousands of normal people, including families with kids, walked by to watch the game. This is something that escaped attention of the mainstream media that conveniently inflated a silly brawl into something akin to the 1920 Battle of Warsaw.
The Poles have gone soccer-crazy.
Photo: Lech Kaczanowski
Sadly, most of the global media had arrived at the tournament with a preconceived notion that things had to turn ugly sooner or later. Old stereotypes die hard, and the British media in particular have been giving Poland a hard time. Could this black PR have something to do with the fact that another major sporting event - the London Olympics – is taking place in the UK this summer, competing for tourist money and publicity?
A few days prior to the start of the tournament, we witnessed a foreign TV crew demanding the Polish police help them "meet hardcore hooligans " and take "good shots of scuffles." They came to catch "real action" and refused to take no for an answer. As one photojournalist put it, "long lens shots of quiet streets, wide shots of well-behaved groups of people trotting towards a game, and panning shots of pedestrians going about their business is not exactly news." Making up drama is an effective, even if ethically questionable way to spice up reports about places most viewers have little idea about.
As for all friends and colleagues, who have called our Warsaw office over the past week to ask how we were coping with the violence, we would like to confirm once again that we are indeed fine. Whatever violence there was, it affected only those who wanted to take part in it, not regular fans and passers-by. Marching back from the Greece-Russia game on Saturday we were surrounded by 20,000 Russians and another 20,000 Poles, all united in dismay at the fact that their teams failed miserably in their decisive matches. But everyone's certainly looking forward to the rest of the tournament, even if the family picnic atmosphere is something that does not look that attractive on TV.
Read more about the projected economic impact of the EURO 2012 in no 478 page 22 and in news2biz POLAND editor Lech Kaczanowski's commentary EURO 2012: Poland has already won.