When Ukraine was awarded Euro 2012 together with Poland, many saw this as a chance to promote Ukraine’s image as a European country. This, however, has not been easy.
The preparations for the tournament were overshadowed by economic difficulties, strained international relations due to the imprisonment of the former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, and a number of other controversies, the most damaging, perhaps, being the allegations of anticipated racism at the tournament coming from the UK media. The negative image stuck so quickly that some entrepreneurs even decided to capitalize on the perception of Ukraine as a dangerous place.
In reaction to bad media as well as the perceived shortcomings in preparations on the ground, Ukrainians in the Euro 2012 host cities organized several grassroots initiatives aimed at presenting the country as a welcoming, modern and comfortable place, offering free accommodation, English-language assistance, free tours around Kiev, and help to foreign journalists covering the tournament.
As the championship culminated in a spectacular Italy vs. Spain match hosted by Kyiv, Facebook users and bloggers gathered and shared impressions of the Euro 2012 experience in Ukraine.
Thus, Facebook user Oleg Palchik (Олег Пальчик) posted a photo of a grateful football fan from Kharkiv:
The Ukrainian capital and the venue for July’s final, Kiev has been a joy to visit and its people have truly embraced Euro 2012 in every possible way. The daily carnival atmosphere in the city’s huge Fan Zone has epitomised everything that is good about football, bringing people of different nationalities together to enjoy the beautiful game without a hint of abuse.
Significantly, we have seen no reason for any of the concerns regarding racism expressed by the British media prior to the tournament. Having seen first-hand the kindness of the locals, their love for football and the excitement that the Euros has brought to their every-day lives, I have drawn the conclusion that everything was blown out of proportion by the press.
A blogger and Facebook user Hanna Hrabarska shared a photo of her apartment where she and her flatmate hosted football fans. She wrote [ru, en]:
This is how our apartment looked in the morning)
We are friendly girls from friendly Ukraine)
Many Facebook users and bloggers also shared videos of the Dutch fans singing the Ukrainian anthem in the host city of Kharkiv:
Administrators of I Can Help U (speak English in UA) shared a photo of the volunteers of the grassroots initiative “Friendly Ukraine” playing a friendly football game with a team of international fans.
As the championship neared the end, it became clear that the experience of most fans has been rather positive and racism-free, so that some in the British media even began to call for an apology to Ukraine.
And although the latest survey data [ru]shows that the image of Ukraine has not improved with the help of Euro 2012, the grassroots initiatives have certainly contributed to improving the experiences of foreign visitors and left positive memories for many.
I Can Help U initiative sums it up [ru]by sharing the photo below:
This is what it was all for)) !
Written by Tetyana Bohdanova