Euro 2012 Experience
Once I had the opportunity to get to Ukraine for the Euro 2012 European football championship, I packed up my bag and went for it. In retrospect, I cannot believe I almost decided to skip it. My entire experience here has been amazing (well, except for the Elton John + Queen concert, but more on that later). Meeting up with friends and cheering for Ukraine inside the fan zone in the center of Kiev, watching other games there or in local bars and exploring the city in the mean time - all made for eventful couple of weeks.
The Fan Zone
Amazingly, the main street of the city has been closed off for the entire three weeks of the championship. The fan zone included multiple huge screens, a couple of stages and the endless rows of beer and food tents. Luckily, at the last minute the plans to charge entrance fees were dropped so lots of people were able to attend and cheer for their teams there.
I have to give the props to the organizers - everything seemed to run very smooth inside the fan zone every time I went there, and I went there for pretty much every game.
It was a good place to meet up with friends, cheer for our favorite teams, and just hang out with other football nuts from all over the world.
Elton John + Queen Concert
As part of the Euro 2012 celebrations To celebrate my birthday, Elton John and Queen were to play in a free concert inside the fan zone the night before the final game. If that sounds too good to be true, well, it was.
While the "free" part was drummed up everywhere, the space anywhere near the scene was blocked off for the "pass" holders while the rest of us were left to watch the performance on the giant screens inside the fan zone.
After seeing that, Lyle and I got ticked off and had to decide on what to do next. We could have stayed there, standing around for five hours watching the concert "live" on (big) TV while getting constantly bumped into by the crowd inhaling cigarette smoke from all directions and drinking crappy beer. On the other hand, we could go back to his place, relax on the comfortable couch and have as much beer as we wanted.
We opted for the later and ended up not regretting our decision as we both thought the concert ended up being a bit weak. Elton John performed mostly soft songs, while Queen spiced it up a bit with more light shows, but still failed to really impress either one of us.
Good thing I did not have to pay those guys for this birthday performance.
I was sad to hear the horror stories of even the cheapest tickets for the final game in Kiev being resold for $300-$400. Since I missed the group stage games and did not get the quarter final tickets in time (they arrived a day after the game!), I had yet to go to the stadium and it was not looking promising.
Couchsurfing came to my rescue almost the last minute as I was able to buy the category two ticket for pretty much the face value from a Spanish guy whose friend did not make it.
Being in the middle of the Spanish sector pretty much made me cheer for Spain, even though Italy has always been dear to me, especially after their fantastic performance in the semi final against Germany.
Unfortunately, the game turned out to be pretty one sided with Spain scoring two goals in each half. On the other hand, that ensured that while the rest of the stadium sat quietly watching the game, the frenzy ensued in the Spanish sector with non-stop cheering, singing, screaming, and, eventually, celebration of this historic win for the Spaniards.
This was definitely the best possible way for me to finish my trip in style and what a trip it ended up being!