KYIV: Media veterans of sports events dating back to the days of yesteryear, when print was king and television pictures were black-and-white, were all agreed: Euro 2012 presented the most awkward logistics of the lot.

Correspondents who have scaled the altitudes and plateaux of Mexico and South Africa, who have traversed the world from the Andes (World Cup, Argentina 1978) to the Great Wall of China (Olympics Beijing 2008) consider it obligatory to report a different match in a different place every day.

And then, along came Poland and Ukraine and Euro 2012.

Opening up in Warsaw only a month ago

Poland and Ukraine are two vast countries which share one common border . . . and little  else.

Fair enough that they have different languages and different currencies in which to rack up extortionate hotel prices (particularly in Ukraine). But they also have different alphabets, different time zones, even different railway gauges.

Matching them up in the first place was a triumph of politics over practical common sense – and that is not to decry the hard work and general friendliness of peoples in both countries.

Poland, also, has been an independent nation state – whatever the complexities of the Soviet era – far longer than Ukraine. Thus it was far better set up to cope, administratively, with preparation tasks; Ukraine is full of wild and murky tales about the awarding of infrastructural contracts.

Indeed, Poland could have hosted Euro 2012 on its own. Krakow would have been a host city and Lodz as well as Byggoszcz and Katowice where the once-intimidating old stadium badly needs an upgrade.

The cultural, social and national differences of the two countries have been revealed in contrasting local support for the finals.

Poles ‘lived’ the tournament far more intensely than Ukrainians; they possess, after all, a long-established western fan culture. Too many matches in Ukraine lacked atmosphere because they were short on visiting fans and long on neutrals: ‘walk-up’ queues at the ticket desk on match days were a common feature in Donetsk.

Visiting fan absence – excepting the Swedes who flooded Kiev courtesy of the convenience of seeing all their team’s three matches there – could not be blamed on the now-traditional (and boringly predictable) scare-story programme run by BBC TV’s Panorama. That came too late in the day.

If some later matches lacked atmosphere that was partly down to the inadequacies of the transport systems. Not enough planes, not enough trains. Also, neither Poland nor Ukraine offers a coherent internet-based travel booking system.

The next time UEFA considers co-host bids it should insist on an technologically integrated travel network.

After all, TV foots the bill . . . and it’s hard to believe that TV producers, directors and accountants are happy to see empty seats when their cameras pan around the crowd.


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