Editor’s Note: The following opinion piece was originally published by Open Democracy
Sport engages us most when it provides a test of character. Normally of course this is when people are actually playing the sport in question; but Ukraine’s co-hosting of the European Championship Finals with Poland this summer has had a similar function, casting an unexpectedly bright light on all that is wrong with modern Ukraine.
It was supposed to be the other way around. When the tournament was originally awarded jointly to Poland and Ukraine in 2007, just three years after the Orange Revolution, the underlying story was about cooperation across borders and between the many versions of ‘Europe’, and even Ukraine’s long-term European future.
But fast-forward to Yanukovych’s Ukraine in 2012 and the narrative has flipped into the stark contrast either side of the new EU border, between ‘good’ Poland and ‘bad’ Ukraine – and to certain common central-east European problems like residual racism.