Euro 2012: So Poland and Ukraine can host but not Pakistan?

Published: July 21, 2012
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Riot police fired teargas and rubber bullets at Polish and Russian football fans who fought bloody battles near the Warsaw stadium. PHOTO: REUTERS

Plain clothes police officers arrest a soccer fan during clashes before the Group A Euro 2012 soccer match between Poland and Russia in Warsaw. PHOTO REUTERS Riot police fired teargas and rubber bullets at Polish and Russian football fans who fought bloody battles near the Warsaw stadium. PHOTO: REUTERS Riot police stand over two fans arrested before the Group A clash between Russia and Poland.

The UEFA‘s decision to choose Poland and Ukraine as hosts for the Euro 2012 was dealt with criticism and rightfully so: The two countries are known for their hostile attitudes.

Poland, where 96.7% of population is pure Polish, is ranked number 14 in the list of the most racist countries in Europe. Ukraine, which has a whopping 78% of pure Ukrainians, has bagged the 23rd position on the list.

However, we were not aware of the situation regarding racism in Ukraine and Poland before the release of the famous BBC documentary “Stadiums of Hate”.

Asian countries are often stereotyped as terrorism-infested and are deprived from sporting events. However, take a brief look at the events in these two host nations; the murder of an Irish fan, open warning from Ukraine racist groups to the English supporters, and riots with the police. Let’s not forget the brutal overcharging of the tourists. Despite all of these hate-filled incidents, these countries gained more than they lost under the banner of hosting the Euro 2012 cup.

How did the Euro 2012 benefit these nations and their economies then?

Poland

Just the infrastructure spending associated with the UEFA Euro 2012 amounted to 110 billion Zloty (about €25.6 billion). 63 billion Zloty was invested in the construction of roads and investments in hotels also naturally increased. With all the development that took place for the Euros 2012, the overall infrastructure projects add around 1.5% to the Polish GDP.

Ukraine

Infrastructure expenditures related to the UEFA Euro 2012 championship totalled to a hefty 107 billion Hryvnia (Ukrainian currency) or 8.3% of their GDP. More than 73.8% of Ukraine’s Euro 2012 investments have been aimed at modernising their transportation infrastructure, namely urban transport, roads, railways and airports. This will in turn boost their GDP by almost 5%.

The official number of foreigners who visited Poland for the Euro 2012 is around 820,800 out of whic 453,500 were expected to stay in Poland for longer than one day. The Polish press expected 200-250 thousand people to come from countries whose national teams were to play in Poland during the group phase and only expected them to spend 180-230 million zloty. Given that Ukraine hosted the final, it was naturally expected to be the more attractive tourist destination.

Government officials expected 800,000 – 1.2 million tourists through the duration of the tournament, each staying for about three to four nights and spending $1,000 at average. But these numbers were based on 700,000 ticket sales, a large portion of which were bought by local residents.

Doesn’t all this call UEFA’s sanity into question? I mean, barring the economic boom it provided the host nations with, didn’t it put thousands of lives at risk?

There was one attack on Sri Lankan cricketers during the arrival of players at Iqbal Stadium, Lahore – just one attack – and the whole western media turned their eyes against Pakistan. They deprived Pakistanis from almost all major sports, mainly cricket, hockey and other South Asian games.

Pakistan is still suffering from the consequences and international teams of all sports are afraid to visit Pakistan just because we have been misrepresented by the western media as a failed, terrorist Muslim state, and not a part of the European council, apparently whom they wish to support even by putting many lives at risk. What the western media did has severed us from any means of developing or benefiting our economy. The state of our tourism industry is not even worth commenting on as it is just too disheartening.

My question is, if the two most racist and dangerous countries in Europe were given the chance – with many notable players protesting and voicing against it – to host such a massive event why was Pakistan demonised for an attack likes of which were never repeated?

Pakistan does not have a history as heavily laden with chronic ethnic and racial violence like Poland or Ukraine, nor do our spectators attack people of different ethnicity or colour. Yet, Pakistan suffers from the ill-fate bestowed on it by the western media and its manipulation.

Sanwal Malik

Sanwal Malik

A Mechatronics Engineering student from Air University, Islamabad. He blogs at www.iwritemyideas.blogspot.com and enjoys writing about politics, the youth of Pakistan, fiction stories, sports mainly on football and some religious issues.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.