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Gdansk’s 12-day love affair

Gdansk is saying its farewell to UEFA EURO 2012, but after 12 days and four games, it is a much changed and much more confident city. No one is saying that everything went to plan; in fact almost everything far exceeded expectations. Sure, the weather could have been a bit better, but you cannot have it all.

The colour and excitement of the tournament were the standout features up here on the Baltic coast, with what Father Jan Uchwat – head of the local seminary – called the ‘Group of Pope’ bringing Spanish, Italian, Croatian and Irish fans into contact with local supporters to dramatic effect. The amber-coloured Arena Gdansk, and the golden tones of the local beaches seemed to have taken the same green tinge as the sea when the Irish were in town.

The Republic of Ireland’s base at nearby Sopot helped lure around 25,000 followers to the birthplace of the Solidarność trade union, with the fan zone between the picturesque Old Town and the Arena Gdansk very much the place to be. The Irish ‘craic’ proved intoxicating enough for locals, but the Baltic left its mark on the visitors too, with plenty of suggestions that the visitors who came to Gdansk this June may be on their way back for holidays in the years to come.

While Irish fans were plentiful, Spain also brought their own susbstantial contingent: the local Fan Embassy suggested there were around 6-7,000 Roja followers in town, many decked out as toreadors, bulls or flamenco senoritas. Most residents reckoned you could add 4-5,000 more to that number, though the number of red-and-white clad Poland supporters at every Arena Gdansk game may have somewhat blurred those figures.

An interesting feature was how locals co-opted the visiting fans’ favourite songs. Ireland’s “Stand Up For The Boys In Green” morphed into “Polska, Biało-Czerwoni” (Poland, red and white) and the more unlikely “España, Żółto-Czerwoni” (Spain, yellow and red). It was symbolic of exactly how well everyone got on. Tellingly, I have had invitations to go and see games at Club Atlético de Madrid, FK Željezničar, Ferencvárosi TC, Paris Saint-Germain FC, FC Nantes and Bray Wanderers FC among others.

After Germany’s 4-2 win against Greece called time on the international section of the programme, Gdansk’s mayor Paweł Adamowicz, clearly overcome with emotion said: “Let’s apply for the FIFA World Cup now!” A month ago, it would have been comical, but all of a sudden, for Gdansk, the sky is the limit.


Source Article from http://www.uefa.com/uefaeuro/season=2012/hostcountries/news/newsid=1831782.html?rss=1831782+Gdansk’s+12-day+love+affair

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