London England Fans – February Forum
By Joshua Drake
The LondonEnglandFans group met up on February 23 to host their second supporter’s forum in the run-up to the Euro 2012 championships in Ukraine and Poland.
Focusing specifically on Ukrainian tourism, as they host England’s games in the group stages, the speakers included a delegation from the Ukrainian embassy and Kevin Miles, from the Football Supporters Federation (FSF).
Speaking on behalf of the Ukrainian embassy, first secretary Rostyslav Ogryzko, said: “We are hoping that thousands of Engllish and European fans and tourists will be coming to our country in June.. We hope that you will enjoy the Ukrainian hospitality which is really friendly,” he added.
The discussion focused mainly on transport, accommodation, and tourism within Donetsk and Kiev. As England will play twice in Donetsk and once in Kiev, it was important for fans to hear about preparations regarding infrastructure and tourism.
A major talking point for traveling fans has been the transport links between Kiev and Donetsk, with the majority of speculation concerning the new high-speed rail system. Ogryzko explained: “In late May there will be a new system of high speed trains launched between the hosting cities, which will mean you can reach Kiev from Donetsk in approximately 5 hours. The new trains are coming South Korea.”
Miles spoke of the air links between the two cities, which reduces traveling to an hour. “They are apparently arranging extra flights to create more of a shuttle service between Kiev and Donetsk. That’s definitely going to be the easiest option,” he explained.
He warned that despite the brand new terminal being built in Donetsk, there are still capacity issues regarding the airports. However, he predicts the new high-speed trains will make a considerable difference to lightening the strain on flight demands.
Miles was asked about the high prices being charged for flights between the two cities, and responded: “That will be because they haven’t released details on any of the other flights planned, and once they do, the prices will come down. They were adamant though that the state would not step in when it came to the regulation of air travel.” He said that he couldn’t give any indication just yet concerning the announcement of the extra plane times, but assured that the FSF would give out any information once received.
In the media much has been spoken about concerning any potential problems that fans would encounter in the Ukraine, and one of which was the policing, which Ogryzko was keen to clear up. He explained: “If you are stopped by Ukrainian police, firstly they will probably ask you to show your papers, because it happens sometimes. As long as you do everything correctly, there will be no reason to be stopped.”
Miles, who has had experiences with the policing in nearby Russia, told the forum: “I think everyone will be on their best behaviour. The last thing the Ukrainians want is there to be any bad publicity, so although I think there are sometimes issues in other countries, there won’t be many this time round.”
The FSF will release a travel guide soon to assist fans going out to the Ukraine on how to handle similar situations.
England will play two group games in Donetsk so the fans will be seeing a lot of the city. It became quite apparent that because of the industry roots within the city, it isn’t quite going to be a haven for tourism. Though Ogryzko did mention a number of places outside of the city that were definitely worth the visit. The Svyatogorsk monastery 100km outside of the city is situated in the surrounding mountains, and travel there is found quite easily, and the monastery is well equipped for tourism. There are also well-known salt mines in Artemovsk that are 300m underneath the surface.
Within the city, there are monuments dedicated to the Beatles and John Hughes, the latter was a Welshman that first founded the city.
Miles has visited Donetsk and gave his take on the city: “It’s not a beautiful place, except for the stadium. I have to say that the stadium is fantastic. It’s as good a football stadium as I have ever seen anywhere. It’s brand new; they’ve spent a fortune on it, no expense spared. I think it’s the jewel in the crown of Donetsk.”
In terms of organising trips and days out, Miles has said that the FSF will be looking at what they can do to help.
He explains: “When it comes to organising excursions out for groups and such, we tried speaking with some officials about putting us in touch with some of the main coach hiring companies to contact them independently. “But they couldn’t get their heads around the idea that there would be groups that would want to take complete responsibility for the organisation and supervision of an excursion like that. But they’re happy to cooperate and will try their best to find some companies that wouldn’t mind their details being passed on.”
For fans wanting a bit more to do Kiev definitely delivers. Ogryzko was full of praise for the city as it is where he grew up “Regarding Kiev, it’s a city that you can stay in for a week and still have something unexplored,“ he said. From ferry rides along the Dnipro river to visiting the grand St. Sofia cathedral, there is a fabulous mix of history and youthfulness, and as the city is very compact it is easy to get around. “The Podil district is very beautiful and is situated along the Dnipro, and a really historic area of Kiev,” said Maxim Emelyanov of the Ukrainian embassy.
Emelyanov continued: “There are a lot of places like St. Sophia cathedral and St. Andrew’s church that have been there for thousands of years. It is very beautiful. “Also Ukrainian beer is incredibly cheap; I believe that one litre of good Ukrainian vodka will cost you about five pounds.”
Denys Semenovych, also of the Ukrainian embassy, spoke regarding the metro system within Kiev: “If you guys are going to be moving around Kiev pay special attention to the Metro. It is smaller than London’s but every station has been developed like a master piece. It is all pretty much marble, with statues and paintings, and chandeliers hanging from high ceilings. It is an incredible experience,” he said.
The Ukrainian embassy officials in attendance were also happy to confirm the Metro stations would have Latin names as well as Ukrainian.
The Pirogovo museum was also mentioned as a must-see. It is an open-air museum that showcases the different forms of architecture Ukraine has had through its history.