Roman Malanke

A Local’s Impressions of Euro 2012

Last Sunday with glorious victory of Spain over Italy ended probably the most important international event ever held in Ukraine — Euro 2012. Despite the fact that I had no interest whatsoever in following massive polemics that preceded the championship debating whether Ukraine is capable of co-hosting it, I couldn’t help but immerse in the atmosphere once it actually began. Now, after it has finished and all the adventurous tourists have returned to their homes, I must admit that I’m glad Ukraine had this event, and I have no doubt that it was a useful experience for the country and its people.

Thanks to Euro 2012 the month of June has passed very quickly. First there were seething emotions about Ukraine playing in the group stage: a heroic victory over Sweden, a decent loss to France, and then a somewhat unfair loss to England with referee denying a valid goal. I was pleasantly surprised by how many Ukrainians chose to express their patriotism by sticking yellow-blue flags to their cars or wearing same-colored t-shirts. Unfortunately that didn’t help Ukraine to qualify for play-offs, so for the remaining part of the tournament I became Spain’s fan, secretly hoping that in the final they would face Italy in a “Mediterranean” battle. And so it happened, although the final game couldn’t really be described as a battle with Spain winning 4-0.

The sport angle aside, it was interesting to observe how Kyiv coped with the unseen number of tourists. Despite awkward last-minute efforts by local government to fix things, it became clear during the championship that even the capital of Ukraine is very far from European norms of “tourist-friendliness”. Still, some infrastructural improvements have been made and hopefully they will remain and get developed further. For visitors €0.15 bus ride and €4 taxi drive might have compensated in some way for all the logistical difficulties they faced navigating and “using” the city. For local people, who for the most part can’t afford to travel abroad, seeing and interacting with so many tourists was a truly unique experience.

For me personally another bright side of the Euro was the opportunity to get my first experience as a couch surfing host. It was especially nice that it came immediately after my great experience as a couch surfer in Spain. Over the month of June I had guests from Brazil, Mexico, Iran, and Spain who came to attend Euro matches and were looking for a more authentic and economically reasonable accommodation options. All of the guys proved to be super-pleasant and discreet guests with great sense of humor and I hope we’ll meet with them in the future. Maybe that will happen at the next world-class event hosted by Ukraine. Who knows?