By George Green
When I first arrived in Ukraine I had Euro 2012 confused with the World Cup, and was uninformed about the impact on Ukraine. Since staying here for nearly 2 years I have become very acquainted with this event, and event as a non football fan watched many games. I have had the chance to speak with Ukrainians from every between Harkiv, and Lviv, but especially in Lviv, and Kyiv. The following is both the hopes, impressions, and fears that I have heard from the Ukrainians I have met regarding Euro 2012.
Ukraine suffers from a duality where many Ukrainians hate a lot about the politics of their country but would defend Ukraine to the death if challenged. Also I am impressed that while building stadiums has been used as a tactic to promote allegiance to the EU and other countries in the past, most Ukrainians feel no debt owed to Europe for Euro 2012, but at the same time feel as legitimate Europeans not some cutoff block.
In terms of the soul of Ukraine Euro 2012 has increased patriotism, and Ukrainians take to the streets today in Maiden Square wearing Yellow and Blue, not Orange. The Lviv and Kyiv train Stations and Airports look amazing, and squares unused since the Soviet Era have been renovated and are lined with modern signage, and beautiful sidewalks. Even though Ukraine has been eliminated from the final game, as I write this, on July 1, directly beneath the 'Fan Zone', Ukraine patriotism is in the air.
The Not So Good
The event has at least somewhat been politicised. Yuliya Tymoshenko has booths lining both sides of the fanzone declaring her innocence with protesters wearing 'fanzone from jail' and 'free Yuliya'. Many of the original projects due in time for Euro 2012 remain incomplete, but do not seem to be halting. Ukrainians shrug by these booths, but many foreigners end up speaking with them about politics instead of futbol. More foreigners than Ukrainians flood even the Fan Zone. The Fan Zone is a mixed blessing good in that Ukrainians have free access to the game, having been unable to afford sold out tickets at the actual stadiums. But having spend days at the fan zones in more than one Ukrainian city I can safely say it's as good or better than being there; the other entertainment includes many live performances of Ukrainian groups and helps connect the event between the cities hosting matches. It does seem that for at least today East Ukraine and West Ukraine which are so often opposed are united in pride at what their country has done.
Economically the event has produced significantly. There is almost no industry that has not benefited in some way from the Euro 2010, though that has created a serious question. Will tourists still flock to Ukraine after Euro 2012? I know many journalists are already searching for what they can do July 2. Kiosk workers already expect significantly less traffic. Essentially once the game is finished the extra police, extra store workers, number of taxi drivers, and clients in general drops from a 2 year high; the over night unenployment is something many Ukrainians have considered but no one has produced answers yet.
Worst case scenario, the tourism generated results in a lot of photos but no repeat business. The best case is that after two years of people traveling between Western Europe and Ukraine results in an interest to see the other parts of the nation, and sites that were not very interesting with the backdrop of the Euro 2012. With new roads, and an incredible amount of new infrastructure it's up to Ukraine to trap the ball and keep progress up.
Ukrainians do not seem optimistic or pessimistic about this. Many worry about life post Euro-2012, but many have seen so many problems they are less interested in worry. Yes Ukraine was eliminated from the final. But at the same time Ukraine is the place everything will be decided and in Kiev Ukrainians are living their day without worrying about tomorrow; proud to be the place where the final is held.