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The New Life of the Old Stadium
Kyiv has been the scene of preparations for the UEFA EURO 2012 football championship — building, renovating, refurbishing, mending and fixing up roads, air terminals, hotels and other facilities. The Olympiysky National Sports Complex, venue of the Euro 2012 final game, was unveiled, after a major overhaul, on October 8 2011.
The official inauguration ceremony was attended by almost 60,000 spectators and watched by millions of television audiences in their homes and TV pubs and bars.
The ceremony had been designed and staged by representatives of almost ten countries but the central ideas had been developed by Ukrainians.
The President of Ukraine Viktor Yanukovych addressed the viewers with a short speech praising the reconstructed stadium and expressing confidence that the games would be an unqualified success.
The opening ceremony featured actors, dancers, acrobats, artists and volunteers from several countries who appeared in a vast theatrical production. Performers included popular Ukrainian singers Ani Lorak, Taisiya Povaliy and Gaitana (incidentally, Gaitana had been nominated as “a Friend of UEFA EURO 2012”). The ceremony was concluded with a spectacular fireworks display.
The well-choreographed show involved over 2,500 participants and centered on historical themes from Ukraine’s distant and recent past. Easily recognized symbolisms, costumes, colors, lighting and video displays were designed to produce an impression — and they did. Ukrainian traditional dances and stunt performances were cheered by the enthusiastic audience who was also exposed to bits of the stadium history.
The show culminated in the much-awaited performance of Shakira, a hot pop singer and belly dancer from Columbia.
The renovated stadium, a multifunctional complex, boasts two giant screens and contains numerous restaurants, bars and shops and fully meets UEFA requirements for elite-class venues.
Bits of history
Originally, the stadium was built in the early nineteen-twenties and was officially opened on September 1923 when the sports competitions of the First Olympiad of the Land of Kyivshchyna were held. This sport facility ’s official name then was “The Red Stadium Named for Leon Trotsky” (after Trotsky, one of the top leaders of the Bolshevik revolution of 1917, lost his battle for power against Stalin, was disgraced and chased out of the country).
In 1934, the stadium went through its first major renovation and was enlarged to seat 50,000 thousand spectators. The new name it acquired was The Ukrainian Republican Stadium.
The local top Communist Party boss Nikita Khrushchev (twenty years later he became soviet premier and head of the Party) encouraged further renovation and the stadium was to be named after him. The reconstructed stadium was to be opened on June 22 1941 when Kyiv’s football club Dynamo was to play against a Moscow team. But on that day Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union and the opening ceremony had to be postponed to better times. The war did a lot of damage to the city in general and to the stadium in particular. The war was still raging when, after the liberation of Kyiv by the Red Army troops in November 1943, the stadium began to be repaired. The newly reconstructed stadium was inaugurated in June 1944 and a football game was played — Dynamo took on the Moscow team, the same one it was to play against in June 1941 (and ignominiously lost nil to four).
The new reconstruction was launched in 1966 with some daring and pioneering engineering innovations widely used in building of the second tier of seats above the old stands. The seating capacity was raised to accommodate 100,000 spectators.
Eleven years later, the stadium was closed to go through still another reconstruction as it had been chosen to be the venue of some of the competitions to be held during the 22nd summer Olympic Games of 1980 (the right to hold the games had been won by the Soviet Union). The football pitch was given a special renovating attention; new lighting towers that soared to the height of over 240 feet were erected. Instead of benches, individual seats were introduced and it brought the number of spectators it could seat to 83,000.
After the renovation, the facility acquired a pompous name of the National Sports Complex Olympiysky.
Shortly after Ukraine jointly with Poland had won the right to host the European football championship in 2012, it was decided that the stadium needed a major overhaul. The facility was to be a multifunctional complex that was to meet the UEFA requirements for elite-class venues. It should be able to hold football, track-and-field and other high-level international competitions.
The reconstruction began in 2008 and was to provide an easy access, uncluttered approaches and exit zones, security systems and facilities equipped with video cameras. The advanced construction technologies were to be employed.
The work got to a slow start, and several times the whole project hung in balance. Adequate financing was one of the central problems.
The reconstruction provided the stands with synthetic membrane roofing which is to protect the spectators from the sun when it gets too hot, from rain or snow too.
The final touches are yet to be added but on the whole the major work has been done. The stadium will be the venue of the final game of Euro-2012 on July 1 2012. It is the biggest stadium among all that will host the Euro-2012 games with 70,050 seats of full capacity. 1,497 seats are designed for media people, 316 for commentators and 150 for the physically handicapped.
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