Continuing our series on the stadiums being built for the UEFA European Championships in 2012, to be hosted jointly by Poland and the Ukraine, we look today at Gdańsk. There, a new 44,000 capacity stadium, the PGE Arena Gdańsk, is currently under construction in the northern city on the Baltic coast. Just this month, PGE signed up for a five year sponsorship of the stadium, previously known (much more appropriately) as the Baltic Arena.
The $320m construction project, designed by architects Rhode, Kellermann and Wawrowsky, is well underway.
After the Euros, the stadium will be used by Lechia Gdańsk, who currently play in the 12,000 capacity Stadion Lechii, raising some questions about just how appropriate a 40,000+ facility will be for a team that has yo-yoed up and down from the first to the second division over the years.
Here are the pretty spectacular renderings of the new stadium:
And one of those ever lovely promotional videos:
As of December 2009, construction was proceeding on schedule.
In a week that saw UEFA finally confirm that the Euro 2012 final will take place in Kiev, Ukraine, it seems only fitting to look at the stadium under construction that will host it.
The Olympic National Stadium in Kiev has a long history, first opening in 1923 as “Red Stadium” (you can guess why), and then going through further name changes that reflected the political situation in Ukraine: Stalin Respublikanskiy Stadium (1941-1953), Khrushchev Respublikanskiy Stadium (1953-1966), Kiev Central Stadium (1963-1978), Respublikanskiy Stadium (1978-1996) and finally NSC Olimpiysky (1996-).
The first major stadium renovation was finished in 1941, but on the day of the opening ceremony, the Nazi luftwaffe bombed the stadium.
The latest reconstruction, an almost complete overhaul of the stadium’s structure and design, has been through some changes itself alread. This was the original winning bid’s design, by Taiwanese firm Archasia Design Group:
But in the summer of last year, slow progress led to Ukraine dropping Archasia from the project. Demolition, though, continued:
Confusion reigned for some months over the details of the design selected in place. Finally, official renderings came out of a more modest overhaul:
One year of construction has taken place, and the stadium currently looks like this:
Donbass Arena opened on August 29th, 2009, and this week will host its first international and one of the biggest game’s in Ukraine’s history: the second-leg of their World Cup 2010 qualifier playoff against Greece. Ukraine are in great shape to qualify after a 0-0 draw in Athens this weekend.
The game could be taking place in no more beautiful setting.
Yet the 51,000 capacity stadium may not be as full as it has been since it opened in August, as huge crowds have cheered on Shakhtar Donetsk to a series of resounding victories since the stadium’s opening.
High ticket prices set by the Ukrainian Football Federation have caused an outcry ahead of Wednesday’s international, with Shakhtar Donetsk’s President Rinat Akhmetov yesterday writing an open letter to FFU President Grygoriy Surkis, accusing the FFU of greed and writing (in the official Donbass Arena’s site’s own translation) that “FFU has fixed incredibly high prices for tickets. I have been telling several times and I repeat once again that the supporters were treated, to put it mildly, badly. Moreover, we are facing the risk to see an empty stadium during this principally important match.”
Such beauty, such an important occasion. . .But a half-empty stadium?
It was supposed to refocus UEFA away from Western Europe — the awarding of hosting rights to Ukraine alongside Poland for Euro 2012 seemed like a giant leap forward for Eastern European football when it was announced two years ago.
But now, it looks like all the decision has done is given UEFA its hardest decision for some time: whether to remove the hosting rights from Ukraine, as stalled preparations for Euro 2012 are shedding an unpleasant light on all of the problems the game and the nation’s infrastructure has there. The necessary work on transportation links, accommodation and stadia is far behind schedule, even with three years to go.
UEFA this month confirmed five cities as hosts for games in 2012, but only one in Ukraine. The Dnipropetrovsk stadium, expensively built, has been dropped from UEFA’s list for 2012 as the 31,003 capacity is curiously just short of the required 33,000 minimum, with no commitment to a temporary capacity increase given.
And UEFA gave three Ukrainian cities, Donetsk, Lviv, and Kharkiv, until the end of November to prove that they will have adequate infrastructure for the tournament, leading the New York Times to comment that “Ukraine may, in the end, be an example of how not to prepare for a world-class sporting event.”
Political and economic problems have bedeviled preparations. A veto by President Viktor Yushchenko on €880 million of government funding for the projects on August 3rd was the latest blow, with parliament attempting to override his decision, which he argued was needed to prevent the inflation crisis in the country spiralling further and an increase in corruption.
Meanwhile, it seems almost certain that Poland will host the final of the tournament, after it was announced this month that UEFA was shifting the location of the International Broadcasting Center’s (IBC) broadcasting base from Kiev to Warsaw — the IBC is usually in the same city as the final. Kiev’s stadium project has been plagued by problems, including an enforced change of stadium contractor.
If UEFA determines Ukraine is too much of a risk by the end of this year, their reserve plan calls for the games planned for there to move to Germany instead, raising the remarkable prospect of a joint Polish-German European championship.