Originally published for What’s On magazine, June 2012, and a main reason I came to live in Ukraine – Euro 2012 – By Graham
I must say, that Ukraine has impressed me of late. I remember being in Greece in January 2004, the year they held the Olympics, and having a feeling things wouldn’t be ready. And, so it came to pass, Greece pulled off a shoddy, under-prepared and poorly executed Olympics. As I walked past unfinished buildings and dug-up roads a few weeks ago here in Kyiv, the same feeling was present.
And yet, something miraculous has happened in recent weeks. Things have started to be finished. Okay, not ‘finished’ finished as they were for Germany’s fantastic World Cup 2006, say. But, they look like they’re finished.
Take the Sport Hotel next to the Olympic Stadium as a case in point. I passed it a few weeks ago and witnessed an empty husk of a building – a shell, seeming barely worked on by anyone much at all. Having consigned it to the status of simply another EURO 2012 embarrassment for Ukraine, I paid little attention to it in the weeks after. only to turn round and take it in the other day to find the exterior completely clad out with fancy looking plate glass.
Now, this hotel isn’t actually going to be ‘open for business’ per se. And some would say, that’s a pretty major failing, given that it’s right next to the stadium. However, let’s look on the positive side, there are lots of hotels in Kyiv and one more here or there isn’t the end of the world. It’s not going to be an embarrassment even; it’s going to look good. Others may choose to look into that as a metaphor, about the Ukrainian emphasis on the importance of appearance over substance. I won’t do that, it’s impressive it’s been completed and, after all, EURO 2012 should kick-start future custom for the country – meaning future visitors for a fitted-out and fully-functioning Sport Hotel.
Another ‘cause for concern’ was the construction next to Teatralna Metro. We even published a photo in What’s On a couple of weeks ago (snapped by muggins), of an awful-lot-still-to-do-in-not-that-much-time scene, featuring a worker taking a little break on his equipment. Well, not only did that guy get up and get cracking, he was joined by a horde of helpers as, when I passed there the other day, there wasn’t so much as a scaffold in sight. That’s right, the façade of the Museum of Kyiv History has been finished, replete with eaves, colonnades, awning and even a revamped pavement out front.
You know, for us out-of-towners who live here, poking fun at Ukraine is a bit of a hollow victory. After all, it begs the question, if the country is so risible, why do you live there? I’m pleased that Ukraine looks like it’s going to pull it off. There’ll be time after for all the snagging. “And for a hundred visions and revisions. Before the taking of a toast and tea.” That last bit was TS Eliot, but I’m feeling all poetic, inspired by events. So bring on EURO 2012. Come on England! And well done Ukraine.
Unedited – one photo added