Dubstep, iPads And 'F*ck The Euros...'

Peter Schmeichel eyed up a chocolate fountain; everyone had an iPad; and no one had a swastika. Tom Young was in Warsaw for the Euro 2012 opening ceremony...

Last Updated: 09/06/12 at 20:30 Post Comment

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A picture was doing the rounds on Twitter on Friday. The image was of a recently-graffitied wall in the train station at Wroclaw, a host city. The words, freshly sprayed, said: 'F*ck the Euros'.

Clearly, not everyone in Poland is happy about co-hosting the tournament and the allocation of public funds that accompanies it. With the news of racist chanting during Holland's open training session still lingering in Krakow, it was tempting to coarsely write-off the hospitality of the hosts before it had even kicked off. Regardless, the eyes of Europe are firmly on Poland and Ukraine this weekend. And although reports of violence in Wroclaw show the countries aren't ready to be stared at quite so intently, Warsaw - by far the most cosmopolitan city - certainly is.

This was Warsaw's big day and the city's residents felt it keenly. Polish flags fluttered from the backs of cars in the afternoon drizzle, as the soviet-era road network ground to a standstill around the red National Stadium. Fans wore standard issue jester hats, all carried scarves and most faces were painted. The city had become a Coca-Cola ad.

Or perhaps an Apple ad. iPads appear to be this tournament's vuvezelas. Less noisy, but just as intrusive to those in the grounds. As far as the eye could see, Polish fans took photos with them, recorded videos on them. Some arranged their hair in them.

But local pride was evident. Away from the ground, at the Palace of Culture, the site of Warsaw's huge fanzone, one worker manning a sponsorship booth declared it the largest fanzone ever. When asked about Berlin's Brandenburg Gate - thought to have held around 1 million people in 2006, the rep countered: "Ah, but this is the largest official UEFA fanzone. Brandenburg Gate was not official." UEFA's stock may be low this week, but it's certainly stamped its mark on the locals here, who are proud of the affiliation.

Not that many of the locals were able to enjoy the governing body's salubrious UEFA Club though. A tented city in the sunken surroundings of the National Stadium, it's a totem to the sponsors of the tournament. Amongst sweaty delegates clutching free Adidas Tango matchballs, Peter Schmeichel hovered nervously, eyeing up a chocolate fountain. The years have been kind to the Dane but the temptations that accompany relentless hospitality appeared to be weighing on his considerable shoulders. He resisted, and pressed on.

The opening ceremony, at around twelve minutes, was mercifully brief. It obeyed the core principles of all opening ceremonies: put enough people in a stadium wearing different coloured romper suits and make them run about. Everything else will be fine.

And it largely was fine. Rule number two of opening ceremonies was then ticked off: give enough people in the seats coloured squares to hold up. Visual nirvana will follow. It sort of did, with UEFA's new favourite word 'respect' falteringly appearing at either end of the National Stadium. Italian DJ Karmatronic then put the final nail into the coffin of dubsteb's already diminished credibility, simply with the act of playing it at a major tournament's opening ceremony. Chopin's √Čtudes, Opus 25 was dextrously hammered out by a Hungarian. Tents in the shape of host cities' stadia exploded from the bodies of the romper suit wearers.

But still, the iPads dominated, and continued to do so throughout the match. Just before half time, Lewandowski chased down a hopeless ball, won it, and tore down the right flank. Up in the stands, a man was busy changing his screensaver to a photo of the opening ceremony he'd taken just minutes before. He looked up from his task to see the player win a corner, before continuing. An elderly couple taking pictures of themselves jumped briefly to their feet to wave their scarves distractedly before returning to their task.

The Greeks weren't distracted, though. When, after 53 minutes Salpigidis equalised, pockets of their supporters conducted an ironic Poznan. This may have been a friendly nod to their Polish hosts, who certainly took it benignly as they photographed it on their tablet devices.

The Greek fans, giddy with macro-economic defiance, played a huge role yesterday. With around 4000 decked in blue and white, featuring drummers, a buffoon on a trumpet and saddled with crippling levels of debt, it was difficult not to draw clunky parallels with Portsmouth. A banner hung above one stand, featuring a euro currency symbol. It was accompanied by the words: 'Not the only euros we want.'

And then into the evening and the city's streets filled with impromptu kickabouts, not with the racist thugs so heavily represented by Panorama. Admittedly, Warsaw on Friday was not a carnival. It was not beaming with the glow of the unshackled Cape Town in 2010; or the thumping national pride of Beijing's Olympics opening ceremony in 2008. Instead, Warsaw was a city of largely proud Poles wearing jester hats. "We feared for the worst yesterday, but we think it went pretty well," said a tired looking waiter this morning. It did, too.

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