Blogging Jesenská: Oleksiy Radynski, Poland/Ukraine

Not a Single Word About Football

Oleksiy Radynski

Spectacular sports events are said to provide a great stimulus to the economies of the countries in which they are held. Yet, as is often the case in sports, promises are bigger than the final results. Oleksiy Radynski takes a look into the preparations for the upcoming European Football Championship in Poland and Ukraine, and suspects that all which will be left in these countries after EURO 2012 will be debts.

There are 260 days left until the European Football Championship starts in Poland and Ukraine. For the period of those 260 days, we should forget about football completely. We should stop following the results, the transfers and the ratings. For we have found ourselves in a situation where each football broadcast and each sport section in a newspaper are actually legitimising the absurdities taking place during the preparations for the allegedly “most important event in Ukraine’s history”, occurring in 2012. I do not mean the apocalypse, predicted for next year. The basic difference between the apocalypse and UEFA EURO 2012 is that – after the latter’s end – we actually have to live in our countries somehow.

As soon as we forget about football, we should look around attentively, since virtually everything going on around us promotes the success of EURO 2012 in Poland and Ukraine. The event is omnipresent, omnipotent and omniscient. I could devote many pages to prove this thesis, but would rather stick to my favourite example. Kyiv Aviation University has suddenly increased the number of places at its Department of Journalism (yes, Kyiv Aviation University educates journalists, but this is a topic for a special blog entry). When asked about the motives of that increase, the University’s rector answered in a surprised voice: “Don’t you know that next year we’re holding EURO 2012? We need more journalist graduates in order to represent this extraordinary event correspondingly!”

After hearing such an argument, who would accuse the rector of close ties with the Minister of Education? All the more so, since the latter’s current title is the Minister of Education, Science, Youth and Sport. Let’s leave him alone – in the end, he is responsible for the ultimate national project, probably the most important in the history of our young state. It cannot fail, because if it fails, we will have nothing to do but dissolve our country, since after EURO 2012 all what will be left of it will probably be debts.

Of course, sports mega-events, like the European Football Championship, happen to be major successes. This usually applies to so-called First World countries – although, soon after the events’ end some of them are forced into selling virtually everything that still belongs to the state (for instance, this applied to Greece after the Olympics, Portugal after EURO 2004). Instead, in the so-called Third World, such events usually lead to catastrophes – not for the football fans or the official sponsors, of course, but for the economies of the states that are “too weak” – “too weak” to attract investors and not able to pay for all the fun from their own budgets.

EURO 2012 promises to be an extraordinarily curious event from this point of view. For it will take place simultaneously in the two former “Second World” countries; one of which has advanced to the “First”, while the other is desperately trying to deny its more obvious “Third World” position. Even if the two countries manage to conduct EURO 2012 at a “corresponding level”, the aftermath of this event will be completely different for Poland and Ukraine. In the latter, no one mentions the plans to construct something apart from the stadiums anymore, as part of the preparations for the championship. The rest of investments (roads, hospitals, railways) are referred to as “infrastructural” – those are the ones that should have been undertaken, if the urgent need to construct stadiums had not prevented the state from doing this. The state, shaken badly by crisis and never-ending political turmoil and with its infrastructure collapsing, has set stadium construction as a number one priority. That is why, should the apocalypse not be awaiting us all next year, it may well await Ukraine’s economy in 2012.


Oleksiy Radynski is editor-in-chief of Krytyka Polityczna‘s Ukrainian edition and columnist for as well as From July to September 2011, he is a Milena Jesenská Fellow at the IWM in Vienna.

   The Milena Jesenská Blog with all posts can be found here.

IWM, 2011. Copyright © 2011 by the author & the IWM. All rights reserved. This work may be used, with this header included, for noncommercial purposes. No copies of this work may be distributed electronically, in whole or in part, without written permission from the IWM.