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“Euro 2012 Will Be a Success!”
Mykola Vasylkov is a TV journalist who knows “everything” about preparations in Ukraine for hosting the Euro 2012 football championship. He shared some of his knowledge with Maryna GUDZEVATA, WU senior editor.
Mykola Vasylkov, who has been officially nominated “Friend of UEFA EURO 2012,” is one of the TV presenters of the Tretiy taim (Third Half) show which was one of the most popular TV shows in Ukraine in presenting subjects that dealt with football in an entertaining and spitted manner.
He is also the author and presenter of the Euro 2012 — Inshiy futbol (The Other Kind of Football) TV program which delivers news from the construction sites and preparations connected with Euro 2012 in Ukraine and in Poland. He does it in an engaging manner, no stiff interviews — easy banter and generally a lot of fun. He bridges the gap between players and fans.
In a poll, conducted among TV viewers, he was voted in 2011 “the most active journalist who writes or presents on videos subjects related to Euro 2012.”
He was an accredited reporter at FIFA World Cup in South Africa in 2010, UEFA Euro 2008 in Switzerland and Austria, FIFA World Cup 2006 in Germany, and his reports from these championships were always vigorous, humorous and entertaining.
— Did you expect to be nominated a UEFA Euro 2012 Friend?
— No, I did not. I knew about such nominations but did not know the specific details until one day, Markiyan Lubkivskyi, Head of Ukraine’s Euro 2012 Local Organizing Committee, phoned and informed me that the presenters of the Third Half TV show had been honored with being nominated UEFA Euro 2012 Friends. It was a big surprise for me! We agreed that Mr Lubkivskyi would come to our show to officially present us with this “award”. During one of the shows we talked about this nomination in a humorous and cheerful way.
— You’ve visited all the stadiums in Ukraine that will host the Euro 2012 games, haven’t you? Which one did you like best?
— In fact, I have not visited the one in Kharkiv after its reconstruction yet, but I’m planning to do it in the nearest future.
Two stadiums were not built anew but reconstructed — the one in Kyiv and in Kharkiv. The stadium in Kyiv has gone through a major reconstruction. A roof was added, the angle of the stands was changed, the number of seats changed too. In Kharkiv, during the reconstruction, the stadium also acquired a roof and some changes were introduced but not as radical as in Kyiv.
The stadium in Donetsk, which was recently built with private money, is the best as far as all the requirements for such stadiums are concerned.
The stadium in Kyiv, which is called National Sports Complex Olimpiyskiy, is probably the most impressive. Being there, one gets the feeling that one has been transported into the future — the sheer scope is truly grand. The roofing is really fancy — it was created at the cutting edge of modern technology. The scale of everything is truly impressive. Kyiv is a big city and should have a very big stadium.
The stadium in Lviv is the smallest of the four mentioned — and I like it best for its “human” size. And the angle at which the stands are placed provides an excellent view from every seat. Safety measures have been introduced to prevent spectators from accidentally falling down from such steeply climbing stands. I was there at the opening and I can tell you that from my seat I could see everything that was happening on the pitch perfectly well! It felt as though I was among the performers. I can’t share any of my comments about the stadium in Kharkiv because, as I’ve said, I’ve not yet been there after its reconstruction. As far as I know, the soccer fans of Kharkiv’s football club Metalist are the most enthusiastic among soccer fans of Ukraine.
— In the opinion of many journalists, the stadium in Donetsk, Donbas Arena, is the best from the point of technologies, comfort and conveyance.
— I agree about the technologies — the cutting-edge technologies were used during construction, and advanced technologies are available for holding sports events, for journalists and spectators too.
But there are many places with restricted access at the stadium when no sports or any other public events are held.
— How many seats are there?
— The stadium in Donetsk can seat up to 50,000 people, while the Olimpiyskiy Stadium in Kyiv can seat up to 70,000 people. The authorities promise that after the reconstruction is completed, people will have access to Olimpiyskiy almost with no restrictions. But still, you won’t be able to come there and run free around the pitch for exercise, the way you could in the pre-reconstruction times. The track-and-field tracks around the pitch have a very sophisticated surfacing. And the turf on the pitch is very special too — you will not be allowed just to wander around or do damage to it.
The Olimpiyskiy Stadium is said to be ecologically friendly. The materials used in reconstruction meet all the ecological requirements.
— Did you in any way take part in the reconstruction effort?
— I did. I volunteered three days to work at the NSC Olimpiskiy. I installed some ceramic tiles, some lamps and did some other things. Not much really, but I feel pleased I could do it and as they say, every little bit helps.
I did lend my manual efforts to the reconstruction of Lviv’s stadium too. Incidentally, I was the first to come to the Lviv Arena with an official Euro 2012 ball, which I gave to the director of construction as a present and he probably appreciated it more than my muscle contribution to the reconstruction of the stadium.
— What about Poland? Can you compare the state of readiness there and in Ukraine?
— I have not yet been to all the Polish stadiums that will host the games. I’ve been to Wroclaw and Poznan, and in our TV shows we presented reports on them, and I’m planning to go to Gdansk and to Warsaw some time soon.
As far as comparing the state of readiness for Euro 2012 in Poland and in Ukraine, I think in certain things we are ahead of the Poles. I’ve discovered a funny thing — in Ukraine many people think that because Poland is a EU member things are getting done faster and easier there, and in Poland many people think that since there are so many “oligarchs” and rich people in Ukraine, they will get things moving faster and better.
I think that the state of the roads in Poland is better than in Ukraine. On the other hand, the reconstruction of the major highways such as Warsaw–Kovel–Kyiv, Wroclaw–Lviv–Kyiv, and Kyiv– Poltava–Kharkiv is almost complete, and the stadiums in Ukraine are in a good shape too.
But Poland is much ahead of Ukraine as far as hotels are concerned. Besides, they have a well-developed infrastructure of hostels, motels and camping sites. There are many more tourists who come to Poland from the rest of Europe than to Ukraine.
Most of the football national teams that will play at the Euro 2012 Championship have decided to stay in Poland even though they will have to travel to Ukraine to play their games. And it is not because Poland can offer better accommodation and services, but because so little is known about Ukraine.
I find that Polish railroad and terminals are in a sorry state even though the trains themselves, long distance and commuter trains are very comfortable and are kept in a good condition. But the central railroad terminal in Warsaw is a horror to behold!
In contrast, the railroad tracks and railroad stations and terminals in Ukraine are in a good condition — but the trains are not.
After Mr Borys Kolesnikov, Ukraine’s minister of infrastructure who is responsible for preparations for Euro 2012, saw our TV show about the state of preparations for the games in Poland, he called me on the phone and suggested that I and my cameraman go to South Korea to have a look at the locomotives and passenger cars that are being built for Ukraine. He said that Ukrainian trains would not be any worse than those that run across Poland —“maybe they will be even better.” We did go and filmed the work on those carriages. They will be adapted to Ukraine’s conditions and will not be as fast as the ones that run in Korea itself. Separate railroad tracks for really fast trains must be constructed, but Ukraine presently can’t afford it.
And in Korea, I lent my muscle efforts of a laborer to the railroad carriages builders too. I was allowed to install some equipment but not the electrical one (smiles).
The new trains will travel much faster than the old ones and you’ll be able to get from Lviv to Kyiv in about four hours. Also, from Kyiv to Kharkiv trains will run as fast as 180 kilometers an hour, two times faster than now. Anyway, this is what the railroad authorities promise.
— Do you believe Euro 2012 will be a success?
— I sure do. It’ll be a happy time for me. It’s a great challenge for Ukraine — and a great boost to many things too. Take Lviv, for example — without Euro 2012 they would never have such a stadium and an airport as they do now, built with modern technologies.
Lviv is very close to the rest of Europe, and I hope it will soon become a part of the European cultural space. Euro 2012 will provide a great boost to tourism, will let people in Europe learn more about Ukraine.
The ticket sales for Euro 2012 matches reflect the great interest — the demand for the tickets was seventy times higher than the proposition at the first stage of ticket sales. Altogether, a record one and a half million tickets are available for sales.
All the leading European national teams will play, among them all the previous champions of Europe. Group B, the toughest, includes Portugal, the Netherlands, Denmark and Germany, and all the games will be played in Ukraine — in Lviv and in Kharkiv! I’m looking forward to the great spectacles! About 400,000 fans are expected to come to Kyiv alone. It will be so interesting to see how Kyivans who aren’t used to great numbers of foreign tourists will deal with all those foreigners. Fan zones are expected to be the biggest ever provided — 70,000 or more square meters in Kyiv, and over 100,000 square meters in Warsaw!
The event will be the greatest fun ever!
Mykola Vasylkov at FIFA World Cup 2006 in Germany.
Andriy Shevchenko, a Ukrainian and world football star, and Mykola Vasylkov were schoolmates.
Mykola enjoys a festive atmosphere at the Fan Zone in Johannesburg during FIFA World Cup 2010.
Viktor Leonenko, Fozzi, and Mykola Vasylkov — presenters of Tretiy Taim, the best sports TV program of 2010–2011.
Scottish football fans support the Ukrainian National football team during FIFA World Cup 2006 in Germany.