Friday, May 04, 2012
Why Ukraine's Euro 2012 will not be as big a success as hoped
Many members of the former PM's Tymoshenko's cabinet in recent months have been found guilty of abuse of power charges in high-profile criminal trials concocted by ruling authorities' with the intention of 'wiping out' the opposition.
In each case one, or sometimes three judges have decided the verdicts. In Tymoshenko's trial a young probationer judge with two-years' experience singlehandedly oversaw the shambolic proceedings. The tiny courtroom was frequently packed with young persons of thuggish appearance wearing teeshirts bearing anti-Tymoshenko logos - by western standards the rights of the defendant to present her case properly were disregarded. These trials in no way convinced the 'jury' of observers watching in other capitals of Europe and beyond of the defendant's guilt, hence the international media shit-storm, and talk of boycott of Euro 2012.
Yanukovych and his 'Donetsk banda have consistently underestimated the determination of EU countries not to let the assault on the Ukrainian political opposition pass by unchallenged. Rulings in the European Court of Human Rights on the trials' injustice will only add to the pressure, and although the Euro soccer tournament will proceed, sanctions may eventually be applied against individual officials who organised and managed these disgraceful show-trials.
The flood of fans and tourists from western and central Europe visiting the country for the Euro's will be disappointing for various reasons. In previous tournaments, in my experience, many fans have made an extended holiday of their visits to countries hosting such events; days between matches being spent on the beach, sightseeing, etc. etc. In countries such as Austria/Switzerland or Portugal, where tourism is highly developed, this was an attractive proposition..but, no disrespect intended...Kharkiv? Dontesk?
Europe is currently in the deepest economic crisis since WW2.There is little cash around..not enough to pay the Ukraine's rip-off hotel prices.
Then there's the Olympic games in London later in the year - an attractive draw for sports fans.
International football, particularly in Europe, generally is just not that attractive as in previous years. The English, German, Spanish, Italian, Dutch leagues are graced by fantastic international players from all over the world. There is greater interest in the Champions' League and other international club competitions where fans and television viewers can watch the greatest players on the planet playing in truly memorable matches. International tournaments tend to produce cautious, and dare I say boring, not particularly attractive soccer. Team players often do not know their colleagues, who may be scattered all over Europe playing for other clubs. The best players from top clubs have frequently played over 50 matches by the end of the season; all they are interested in is a few weeks well-earned rest in exotic locations during the summer break. Being stuck in training camps between matches in Poland or Ukraine is a depressing prospect.
But the tsunami of bad press in Europe's mass media over the Tymoshenko affair will be the final turn-off. Fans will rather stay at home, or, at best, fly in and out for matches, just like they do for European club matches..
What a terrible shame for Ukraine and its people - they have so much to offer...
As someone who lived in a city where matches of a Euro soccer tournament were played I know how much of a 'feel-good' factor such events generate. Goodness knows, Ukrainians could do with some of that right now..
p.s. This video of a Dnipropetrovsk fan being brutally treated and 'tasered' before a recent match in Donetsk is not encouraging...