EURO-2012: Ukraine, why bother?

Feb 13th, 2012 | By | Category: Diaspora, European Union, In Depth, Politics, Ukraine, Ukrainians Worldwide

Back in September of 2011 I wrote up my “Travel Advisory Euro-2012”. It seems to me, all joking aside, that someone has heeded this message. However, I highly doubt it! Clearly the powers that be in Ukraine have not been able to convince the world that they actually deserve hosting the European football championships this year. Somehow it comes as no surprise to me that 13 of the 16 teams involved in a glorious sporting event have actually decided to set up their team home-bases not in Ukraine but in Poland! So why is this?

It seems to me, that the national football federations of the countries involved clearly understand that the facilities available in Ukraine are minimal. Why on earth would they want to subjugate their top players to Third World conditions? Yes, Third World conditions!

Ukraine’s own Euro-2012 has in fact become one of the sore points for many Ukrainians, and only an idiot could not see this happening over the last 18 months. It is not a secret to anyone that government financed sporting facilities benefit no one, other than those who build them. This is currently a debate in Canada, regarding one hockey arena that certain individuals want to build in Quebec City, in order to try to draw an NHL franchise back to the city. It will not work on public funds, and most in the West know this, however, there were and still are politicos in Canada and Ukraine that always try to manage to obfuscate the truth when dealing with the public.

In Ukraine we know that the public was never involved, to build or reconstruct stadiums in Kyiv and Lviv. Decisions were made in the personal interests, and not in the public’s interest. So how much of the public purse was stolen on these ventures by public officials? I’m not keeping an official record now, but I am sure we are not far from possibly a couple of billion dollars! No, not hryvnia but cold hard green backs. The results, in fact, are not very commendable, from many different points of view: be they architectural, engineering, or even more importantly a return on investment and plans to further exploit these apparent architectural wonders! Or should I say eye-sores?

A number of months ago I wrote a letter to Bryan Adams to not participate in the opening of the Lviv Arena. Why he did not participate, the world will never know, but we all know that Ukraine’s own top man backed out. Why? We still don’t have an answer! I think he feared for his own safety regarding the shoddy workmanship that had taken place at the “Lviv Arena”. Or maybe he just didn’t want to be heckled. We know how these criminal types can’t handle any type of criticism.

As times goes on, everything becomes very clear, at least for those who have some common sense and understand how public officials abuse their office in Ukraine.

I sent a letter off to Bryan Adams on September 23, 2011; shortly after this I made contact with some leaders in the Ukrainian Diaspora regarding the possibility of a boycott of Euro-2012. The feedback by those who are leaders in the Ukrainian community appalled me; many of them seem to think they actually know what is going on in Ukraine. For the most part they haven’t a clue!

“What, boycott EURO-2012, there will be all kinds of small business that will suffer if we do this!” This was one comment I received during my series of phone calls. What small business? Who is this person trying to fool?

The small business this individual spoke about will gain nothing from EURO-2012 except headaches and harassment.

Of all the small businesses that are not under the control of the Yanukovych Regime the following will take place. It happened before under Azarov, when he was chief Tax Man and it will happen again. They will have at least weekly raids, and will be extorting any earnings that are made by small businesses during the EURO-2012 Championships. Has any person from the Diaspora been involved in such raids? I’ve known many business people in Ukraine who have lived through such a matter and have in fact been present when all service stopped as Tax Police shut down a register as they verbally assaulted and in one case physically assaulted an employee of a restaurant. Have, they ever had to deal with Ukraine’s tax police at all? Do you want to put people under such pressure? That is what I have to ask those who are against boycotting EURO-2012? How about you go up against those thugs? Do any of you have the balls for it, in a land where the Rule of Law doesn’t exist? Sorry folks, this isn’t just IRS psychological play or pressure, the thugs from the Tax Police in Ukraine have no qualms about hitting you or a co-worker over the head with a night stick! Or even better they won’t hit you over the head they will hit you in the kidneys in such a manner that there will be no bruises to show anyone, and it will be your word against theirs in a system that will not side with you but with the authorities.

The current regime is a criminal one; I think that this was long ago established. Those in power completely neglect the Rule of Law, and we all know that there are plenty of the nation’s lawmakers sheltering themselves from being judged by whatever kind of judicial system exists in Ukraine by hiding behind their immunity as People’s Deputies of Ukraine.

While the average tourists who visit Ukraine on their own gives a decent indication of what is available if one is on a budget, which most football fans are clearly aware of. For their money they will receive substandard service for anything less than 200 euro a night. This shows just how far Ukraine has come in the area of tourism. In 2001 on the outskirts of Vienna I spent 20 Euros a night with breakfast. And within the last six months the same friend who arranged that stay, told me that now it would cost me about 30 euros a night, and this includes a sumptuous breakfast. If someone can point out such places in Ukraine I would be glad to promote them, but I fear if they exist many of them can only deal in two languages: Ukrainian and Russian. But even still what the average tourist expects and what can be provided for elite athletes are worlds apart. Yes, footballers are elite athletes, and their needs are a great deal different than the average individual.

Regardless, it is now very clear that Ukraine, buy the decision of professionals will not be able to host the most of the athletes participating in the EURO-2012 Championships, and this I am certain my dear readers not based on politics whatsoever, but on concrete facts. If anyone, in the tourism industry that truly understands the capabilities of Ukraine would speak up, and not just in a way that carries the official line of the government, then we would learn that Ukraine is not only unprepared for EURO-2012, but that it will in fact probably create a much more negative image of the country. The peace and love of EURO-CAMP in 2005 on Trukhaniv Island during the Eurovision Song Contest after the euphoria of the Orange (R)evolution is not what football fans are expecting, and they surely most are not expecting to pay € 55 a night in a two person tent. This is what is being proposed by one Kyiv-based booking agency.

So who will benefit at all from tourism during an event that is meant to celebrate sport? Clearly it won’t be the average individual in Ukraine, nor will it be the average small business owner. The decision by 13 of the 16 national football teams who have decided to set up their home base camps in Poland sends a very clear message. Stay away from Ukraine. The money you spend there will not help the common people but only a few who already have more money than they know what to do with.

Vasyl Pawlowsky
Independent Consultant

The commentary of this was first published on the Ukraine Business Online site.

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