Kiev awaits football fans

How to get to Kiev? How to spend there some time without spending a fortune on accommodation in the capital of Ukraine? These are the questions that bother many Liverpool and Real Madrid fans. These teams will play in the UEFA Champions League final in Kiev on 26 May. According to newspapers in Spain and England, some supporters have even given up on coming to take part in this football feast. Nevertheless, many Ukrainians claim that those who decide to come will not be disappointed. Besides, the residents of Kiev offer their help. The capital of Ukraine has a chance to show its best side like during Euro 2012.

The number of supporters coming to the Champions League Final is not known yet. Authorities in Kiev estimate it might be up to 100,000 people. Fans with tickets and without, willing to spend time in UEFA fan zones and local pubs, UEFA officials and the journalists. The impact of high prices of apartments and problems with getting to Kiev on those who have decided to come to the match will be known on May 26.

The residents of Kiev willing to help

In recent weeks, just before the great meeting of European football stars, Ukrainian media have started to inform about an uncontrolled rise of accommodation price in Kiev for the match weekend. The price increase during such events is natural, but in the Ukrainian capital a record was broken – prices increased even 30 to 45 times. It means that a night in a hotel costs over 3,000 euros and in an apartment over 6,000 euros. Initially the representatives of the authorities claimed that the increase of prices is a normal phenomenon, but eventually they decided to initiate some control procedures. However, the indignant inhabitants of Kiev did not wait for the reaction of the decision-makers and realized that the greedy owners of hotels and apartments have been destroying the image of the Ukrainian capital. They decided to form groups of people in social networks, which give accommodation to football fans for free or for symbolic fee. Liverpool and Real Madrid supporters knew about it from their clubs’ related websites. Three days before the final game, the Kiev “FREE couch” group, formed in early May, had over 8,400 members.

– I decided to join others because it is about common sense here. All the tourists, especially fans coming to the event, will later give a review. Something is wrong when we are dealing with an overwhelming speculation, when the prices of hotels are comparable to those in Dubai. There are many people who share this opinion. We have at least two groups on Facebook, where the citizens of Kiev offer the guests the accommodation and transport from the airport and back. Various people will come, often different from the stereotype of a noisy football fan. I will host two Norwegians. One of them works at the City Hall in Oslo. We have a place to host two people, not more. We are expecting our Norwegians on Friday – says Marek Sierant, a Polish journalist who moved from Warsaw to Kiev a few years ago.

People who offer free accommodation are also well-known personalities, especially politicians. One of them is the Minister of Information Policy of Ukraine. Even the President Petro Poroshenko declared to host the fans at his place. However, the names of the lucky ones are not known.
Marek remembers the way people in Kiev helped some Swedish fans staying in a camp town on one of the islands in Kiev. The campsite was not well prepared, and the Swedes had to struggle with various problems, but it did not change their positive attitude.

Ukrainian journalist Kristina Berdinskich also mentions positive Swedish fans and the residents of Kiev, who helped them deal with the problems: – At Euro 2012 there were similar initiatives, people were hosting fans in their homes.

– Basically, this is a great idea, I like it very much. People are not integrated by politicians or by various political treaties – which are obviously important – but they come together thanks to such bottom-up activities. They are more effective. Due to the kindness of the citizens of Kiev during Euro 2012, Ukrainians still enjoy a good reputation in Sweden. The fans return to their countries, to their families, workplaces and tell their stories – emphasizes Marek and laughs. – Probably one more person will come, an Irishman, a friend of one of Polish sports journalists. It will be a bit tight, but funny.

How to get to Kiev? How to get to the Champions League final?

Most fans will get to Kiev by planes, some will take coaches. There were some rumours that some fans will arrive to Poland by low-cost airlines and go to Kiev by coaches.

Generally, if the accommodation is the first problem, the flight to Kiev is the second. It could have forced some fans to stay at home. If somebody did not buy plane tickets for regular air services or charters in advance, the price just before the final might be too high and the time of the flight too long.

A round ticket Madrid – Kiev normally cost more than 180 euros. If you want to get to Kiev on the match day, you will have to pay a thousand euros. Moreover, the flight with transfers will take about 11 hours. Flying from Great Britain sounds the same.

When it comes to transport there should not be more problems. Most fans will fly to the Borispol Airport near Kiev. Additional 100 charters are expected to arrive on the day of the final. Real Madrid supporters will be invited at Terminal B, which is not used on a daily basis, while Liverpool fans at the international Terminal D. They will be able to take two additional bus lines and 150 buses to the city centre.

Liverpool supporters will be taken to a special fan zone, a kind of a meeting place in Shevchenko Park in the centre of Kiev, and Real Madrid fans to the fan zone near the Palace “Ukraine”. Fan zones are places with food and drink, lockers for personal belongings and toilets. Volunteers will be there to help and assist.

The Champions League final will be held on the Olympic National Sports Complex in Kiev. No traffic is allowed from Friday evening to Sunday morning in a 1,5-kilometre zone around the stadium. Already on May 12, the traffic was limited on Khreshchatyk Street – the main street in Kiev.

The 2018 UEFA Women’s Champions League Final was held few days before the main event. Lyon beat Wolfsburg 4:1. The UEFA Champions Festival sponsored by UEFA partners started on that day on Khreshchatyk Street. A few days before an unpleasant incident had taken place. The Ukrainians were outraged by the logo of the Russian Gazprom company on advertising billboards in the city centre. People underlined it was unacceptable in case of war in the east of the country and the Russian aggression. Ultimately, UEFA agreed to remove the logo of the Gazprom.

There will be plenty of music during the UEFA Champions Festival. It will feature Dutch DJ Robbert van de Corput known as Hardwell, as well as Ukrainian bands: Onuka, TNMK and DachaBracha.

On May 25, the main event of the Festival will be the UEFA Ultimate Champions Tournament. Four teams will take part: Liverpool Legends, Real Legends, Champions League Legends and Shevchenko’s Friends. Polish goalkeeper Jerzy Dudek will be among the legendary footballers.

During the final match the Champions Festival zone will be closed. However, the Mayor of Kiev, Vitali Klitschko, stressed that for the first time in the history of the Champions League, UEFA agreed to broadcast a match during the public meeting – 15,000 people will be able to watch it on the big screen at the Kontraktova Square in Kiev’s Podil.

Kiev has got the experience

The sports infrastructure in Ukraine, including the Olympic Stadium in Kiev, was built before the UEFA Euro in 2012. Nevertheless, The UEFA inspection proved the renovation is needed and 100 million hryvnia have been spent on it. But it’s not only about the infrastructure. Most of all, Euro 2012 was a great organizational experience.

– The most important thing is the safety. There is still a war going on. If Western media write about Ukraine, they usually inform about some tragedies. This Champions League final is a small chance to show that Ukraine is living a normal life and its capital is a peaceful place. It is also a chance to remind one more time about Ukraine in a positive context. What is more, many Western journalists will come – emphasizes Kristina Berdinskich.

The security services have been preparing for various extraordinary situations and scenarios in the centre of Kiev in recent weeks. As Kristina points out, not only the EURO experience will help. – Last year Eurovision was organized by Ukraine and it seems to me that we have learned to organize such events on a proper level.

Berdinskis counts on the fact that regardless of the large dose of negative information in recent years, even the most skeptical Western fans will be nicely surprised. – According to my experience, I predict that all those who come here will be really glad.

Her experience is based both on Euro 2012 and on Eurovision 2017. She underlines that it is not only about the fans themselves bringing home good memories from Kiev. It is also about the positive energy brought by the guests, which will hopefully stay longer with the residents of Kiev.

Photo: Bessarabska Square in the centre of Kiev.

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