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Kyiv opens host stadium for Euro 2012 final

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Oct. 9, 2011, 10:04 a.m. |

Fireworks light up the sky above the newly reconstructed Olympiyskiy Stadium during the opening ceremony in Kyiv on Oct. 8. The Olympiyskiy national stadium will host the final soccer match of the Euro 2012 tournament.
© AFP PHOTO/ POOL/ SERGEY POLEZHAKA

A fireworks display capped a three-hour show attended by 60,000 people Oct. 8 to open a $600 million renovation of Olympic Stadium in Kyiv, which will play host to the 2012 European Championship final. Inauguration festivities included a performance by Colombian pop singer Shakira, part of a sound-and-light spectacular that was heavy on patriotism, symbolism and history in celebrating the venue for athleticism and entertainment . The big screens throughout the stadiums flashed colors of traditional Ukrainian embroidery as fans shined small blue-and-yellow lights, the national colors.



A fireworks show at the newly reconstructed Olympiyskiy Stadium was part of the Oct. 8 opening ceremony in Kyiv.



Olympic champions, including pole vaulter Sergey Bubka and gymast Lilia Podkopaeva, were among those honored, taking the field escorted by children wearing national colors.



Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych delivers a speech during the opening ceremony of the newly reconstructed Olympiyskiy Stadium in Kyiv.

The ceremony was tinged by political discord. President Viktor Yanukovych, among the many top officials personally on hand to showcase the grand opening, received a mixture of boos and cheers when introduced. He gave a speech from a podium on the playing field, before retreating to a private sky box with his entourage. The channel broadcasting the event with a 20-minute delay quickly went to a commercial break when the booing started. When the airing resumed, TRK Ukraina showed an edited version of the president's speech with heavy applause edited into the broadcast.



Colombian singer Shakira performs during the opening ceremony of the Olympiyskiy Stadium in Kyiv on Oct. 8.

The downtown Kyiv venue was originally built from 1937 to 1941, and a short film on the history of the stadium -- and Ukraine's sporting achievements from the Soviet era to now -- was shown.

A mishap also marred the event. A fire sparked up the $19 million euro membrane roof before the president's speech. The blaze covered a three-meter section but was quickly extinguished. Fans directly beneath it were temporarily moved away from the falling molten plastic debris. No injuries were reported.

Neither the fire nor political discord marred the festive mood. The crowds checked out the remodeling, and the spectacular views of the city that can be had from the glassy mezzanine surrounding the stadium seating.

The stadium is to host its first match - a friendly between the Ukrainian and German national football teams on Nov. 1. Ukraine and Poland are co-hosting the European football championships from June 8 to July 1, with the finale at Olympic Stadium.


Visitors leave a newly reconstructed Olympiyskiy Stadium after the opening ceremony in Kyiv on Oct. 8. The Olympiyskiy national stadium will host the final football match of the Euro 2012 tournament. AFP PHOTO/ SERGEI SUPINSKY



A steward holds an activist of Ukrainian women movement FEMEN as she participated in a protest at the newly reconstructed Olympiyskiy Stadium during the opening ceremony in Kyiv on Oct. 8. The Olympiyskiy national stadium will host the final football match of the Euro 2012 tournament. AFP PHOTO/ SERGEI SUPINSKY
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